For the first time in his long career, Tiger Woods will not compete for a green jacket at Augusta National in Georgia next week after undergoing a surgical procedure to heal a nagging spinal injury. Despite the obvious temptation to think otherwise, this is not an April Fool's prank.
Woods announced the sad news that he would be dropping out of The Masters on his personal website on Tuesday. The world's number one-ranked golfer will miss the Masters tournament for the first time since 1995, when he competed as an amateur. He turned professional in 1997, which, not coincidentally, was the first year he won a Masters title. Woods added three more green jackets to his collection, with the most recent win coming in 2005.
A back injury has affected Woods' performance over the last nine months, most recently and most obviously at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last month. "After attempting to get ready for the Masters, and failing to make the necessary progress, I decided, in consultation with my doctors, to have this procedure done," Woods said in the press release. Dr. Charles Rich, a neurosurgeon based out of Park City, Utah, performed a successful microdisectomy on Woods, a procedure that alleviates pressure on nerves in the spine. Woods is expected to sit out several weeks to rest and rehabilitate from the surgery.
The question now becomes whether Woods will be healthy enough to compete at the U.S. Open in June. His back has been a consistent problem over the last few years, but it was one of many issues with his health and his game, as SB Nation explains in depth here. "If he's able to play the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June, it will be a full six years since his last major title," writes Brendan Porath. But Woods' injury history in the years since his last title are a major cause of concern. Since his last U.S. Open win — and basically since his marriage very publicly fell apart — Woods has been dogged by injuries. The man who was on track to become history's greatest golfer was suddenly human. His body began to betray him. Woods only needs five majors wins to surpass Jack Nicklaus' all-time record, but considering the way things have gone lately, what was once inevitable now seems almost impossible.