Mar 20, 2014

    Tiger pulls out of pre-Masters tune-up due to bad back


    TIGER Woods' baulky back has forced him to withdraw from the Arnold Palmer Invitational, imperilling his bid for a fifth Green Jacket at next month's Masters.

    On Tuesday, the world's top golfer posted a message on his website, saying: "Unfortunately, my back spasms and the pain haven't subsided."

    The US$6.2 million (S$7.8 million) tournament, which gets underway today at Bay Hill Country Club, was his last scheduled tune-up before the Masters, which starts on April 10. The 38-year-old American has never won the Masters, the men's first Major of the season, without recording at least one victory in the lead-up to the event.

    "It's too early to know about the Masters," Woods added on his website. "I will continue to be evaluated and work closely with my doctors."

    It was the second time in 16 days that his back forced him to withdraw from a tournament. He walked off the course after 13 holes of his final round at the Honda Classic, then played in the World Golf Championships event at Doral the next week and experienced more fourth-round discomfort. Woods finished, but his score of 78 was the highest he had recorded in a final round as a professional.

    He had indicated last week that he expected to play at Bay Hill. It was unclear whether he withdrew as a precautionary measure, to give his back an extra week of rest and treatment, or he had no choice because his back did not respond to rest and treatment.

    Woods missed the 2008 British Open and PGA Championship after knee surgery and also skipped the 2011 US Open and British Open because of a recurrence of his knee problems. But the American has never missed the Masters since he made his debut at Augusta National as an amateur in 1995.

    The 14-time Major champion is chasing the all-time record of 18 won by Jack Nicklaus, but has not won a Major since the 2008 US Open.

    But it is clear his injury woes are mounting - he has made just four starts this season. His best finish is a tie for 25th place at Doral.

    He failed to make the secondary cut at the Farmers Insurance Open and tied for 41st at the Dubai Desert Classic.

    The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of Woods' favourite events. He has won it eight times, including the past two years, and would have been chasing an unprecedented ninth title. The only other player to have won the same PGA event eight times is Sam Snead, who won the Greater Greensboro Open eight titles between 1938 and 1965.

    Woods regained the world No. 1 ranking at Bay Hill last year. He remains at the top but will be supplanted by Adam Scott if the Australian wins this week.