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Tiger Woods backs out of Honda Classic at PGA National

Tiger Woods' leave of absence announcement did not foreclose the possibility of playing the Honda Classic. But whatever he tried to work out in practice in the intervening days has not been enough, and he'll skip the first event of the Florida Swing.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods will not play in next week’s Honda Classic.

Woods, who had committed earlier in the year but planned to spend much of the week trying to sort through all his swing troubles, had until Friday to take his name out of the tournament. The decision doesn't come as a surprise and the Palm Beach-based event relayed the news on Thursday afternoon.

Tiger's agent, Mark Steinberg, told a tournament official that Woods "has been working on his game this week and feels as though he is not tournament ready to play next week."

The 14-time major winner announced on Feb. 11 that he would step away from the PGA Tour until he was able to be competitive.

"I'd like to play The Honda Classic -- it's a tournament in my hometown and it's important to me -- but I won't be there unless my game is tournament-ready," Woods wrote last week. "That's not fair to anyone. I do, however, expect to be playing again very soon."

While Steinberg did not rule his client out of teeing it up as early as the Feb. 26 start at PGA National, after maybe 10 days of practice since his withdrawal from the Farmers Insurance Open and Colorado road trip, Woods’ most recent announcement was hardly a surprise.

Woods has displayed a shockingly shoddy short game in three starts (the unofficial Hero World Challenge and two tour events) since returning to the lineup in December after rehabbing his bad back. A shadow of the golfer who once seemed a cinch to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles, Woods has plummeted from the top of the world golf rankings to his current 66th at a dizzying pace.

Those nine stubbed wedge shots at Isleworth were stunning, though most observers chalked them up to rust since Woods had not played competitively since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August. Then he made his "embarrassing" 2015 tour debut with a career worst-82, missed cut, and share of last place at the Phoenix Open, followed by the WD at Torrey Pines just 11 holes into his first round.

All of that was in the wake of Woods’ worst professional campaign in 2014 -- and folks started planning Tiger’s retirement party.

Despite wincing and clutching at his surgically repaired back following a 2.5-hour fog delay at Torrey, Woods declared that his most recent furlough was not injury-related, though that statement did little to clarify his status. What we do know, in addition to his upcoming no-show at the Honda, is that Woods recorded two withdrawals and three missed cuts in just seven official tour starts last year and has been injury-plagued for years.

He underwent a microdiscectomy last March to relieve a pinched nerve in his back, shortly after withdrawing from the Honda. For the first time in his career, Woods missed the Masters in April and skipped June’s U.S. Open as well.

His return to action in late June was short-lived, as he missed the cut in his first contest back, at the Quicken Loans National, and he was not in contention at the British Open. Woods withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in July, missed the cut at PGA Championship, failed to qualify for the FedExCup playoffs, and took himself out of consideration for a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

When, or if, we’ll see Woods compete again remains unclear. Since only the top 50 in the world qualify for the WGC-Cadillac Championship, he won’t be at Doral next month, and with opportunities shrinking for him to get in some pre-Augusta reps, it seems possible that Tiger will miss his second straight Masters. As Steinberg noted last week, though, it’s "day to day" for the fading superstar.

The only thing certain for Tiger Woods, at this point, is that he won’t be on hand to welcome world No. 1 Rory McIlroy back to the tour. McIlroy is scheduled to play his first U.S. event of 2015 at the Honda, from which he notoriously withdrew two years ago and where last year he blew the lead and lost in a playoff to Russell Henley.