Tiger Woods, bothered by back spasms throughout this month's Florida swing, will not play at this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Woods started the Florida swing at the Honda Classic telling the media he might add events prior to the Masters after barely playing the first two months of the season. Now, following a Sunday "WD" at the Honda and an injury-plagued weekend at Doral, he's taking Bay Hill, one of the constants of his season, off the schedule.
The stop at Doral two weeks ago, where he winced through Sunday to his highest round ever at that event, will likely be the only PGA Tour tournament Woods completes this year prior to the Masters. The back spasms fired up that Sunday when he took an awkward stance over a ball in a trap on the sixth hole.
Woods spent the rest of the round barely able to bend over, make a putt or pick his ball up out of the hole. He finished without a birdie for just the eighth time in his career, but said he was already looking towards Bay Hill and a title defense.
As he always does, Tiger released Tuesday's news of the API withdrawal through his own website, stating:
I personally called Arnold today to tell him that, sadly, I won't be able to play in his tournament this year. I would like to express my regrets to the Orlando fans, the volunteers, the tournament staff and the sponsors for having to miss the event. Unfortunately, my back spasms and the pain haven't subsided.
Just last week, Tiger's agent Mark Steinberg said the world No. 1 had every intention of playing Bay Hill but with the first round just two days out, the back is apparently not ready for another test. He could go off script from his typical schedule and add either the Valero Texas Open or Shell Houston Open in the two weeks prior to the Masters, but that would be surprising at this point given the way his back issues have continually flared up. If Woods does now add one of those two Texas stops, this will be his worldwide record heading into Augusta:
- Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines) -- 72-71-79 (Missed 54-hole cut)
- Omega Dubai Desert Classic -- 68-73-70-71 (tied for 41st)
- Honda Classic (PGA National) -- 71-69-65-WD after a 40 on Sunday front 9
- WGC Cadillac Championship (Doral) -- 76-73-66-78
Even if Woods could play through the pain this week, his main focus right now is getting ready for the Masters just over three weeks away. Tiger's statement even referenced the season's first major in a somewhat alarming way:
It's too early to know about the Masters, and I will continue to be evaluated and work closely with my doctors.
One would assume he'll be ready to give it a go, but we've now seen these back issues affect him last August at the Barclays and more subtly in October at the Presidents Cup. Tiger said the spasms at the Barclays were the result of a soft hotel mattress, and he spent Sunday at Liberty National struggling through each swing.
After an offseason bulking up and resting more than usual, the back issues resurfaced in just his second PGA Tour start of the season this month in Florida. For now, one of the better non-major stops of the season -- the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which Woods has won eight times and is the defending champ -- loses its marquee player. The larger implications of yet another Woods injury will not be known until we get to Masters week.