ORLANDO -- Tiger Woods will be in New York on Monday to sign copies of his new book recounting his victory at the 1997 Masters. Playing two weeks later in this year’s Masters, however, seems unlikely.
According to multiple sources, Woods has not been able to play or practice since withdrawing from the Dubai Desert Classic last month because of back spasms.
Woods’ agent did not respond to an email seeking an update on his condition and schedule, but one source close to the situation near Woods’ home in Jupiter, Fla., said, “I would be shocked if he plays anytime soon.”
Another source said that he saw Woods recently and he “didn’t look good,” adding that while he hopes he is back soon, Woods doesn’t look close to being ready and that a return at the Masters would be too soon. The source added that all Woods has been able to do of late is putt.
Eight days ago, Woods said on his website that because of ongoing rest and rehabilitation on his back he would not be able to play in this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament that he has won eight times. He added there is “no timetable” for his return.
This would mark the second straight year and third time since 2014 that Woods has missed the Masters.
(UPDATE, March 18: After publication of this story, Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg released a statement saying: “I talked to Tiger four hours ago on the phone. We’re not in a situation to even talk about playing in the Masters now. He’s gotten treatments and is progressing and hoping he can do it. There’s not been a decision one way or the other. I couldn’t give you a fair assessment, but to say it’s doubtful is an absolutely inaccurate statement.”)
Woods missed all of the 2015-’16 PGA Tour season because of a pair of back surgeries in late 2015 to alleviate nerve pain. He returned in December 2016 at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, where he led the field in birdies but finished two spots out of last place in the 17-man field.
The only tournament Woods has completed in 2017 was the Farmers Insurance Open in late January at Torrey Pines, where he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72. He then flew to Dubai, shot 77 in the opening round and withdrew the following day.
Woods later pulled out of his next two scheduled starts, the Genesis Open at Riviera and Honda Classic near his home in Jupiter. He also canceled a press conference scheduled for early in the week at Riviera, where he was serving as the tournament host with his foundation running the event.
Three weeks ago, Rory McIlroy had lunch with Woods and later said Tiger was “in good spirits” but hesitated when asked if he thought Woods could be back for the Masters, adding, “Possibly. These next few weeks will probably tell.”
“I think the good thing is mentally he’s in a good place,” McIlroy said at the time. “He’s got other things in his life that he’s interested in and it’s not as if it’s just golf. He’s got other things and that’s great.
“He struggled with his body over the past couple years, and it’s unfortunate because it just won’t allow him to do what he wants to do. It’s tough, but I know that he’s working hard to try and get back. Again, with your body and with injuries, it just takes time.”
Woods has won the Masters four times, the last coming in 2005 when he beat Chris DiMarco on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Woods' last appearance at Augusta National was in 2015. He tied for 17th.