AUGUSTA, GA - Tiger Woods is out of the Masters.
The world's No. 1 player announced on his web site Tuesday that he will be unable to play in the Masters next week after having successful microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve in his back. The surgery was performed Monday in Park City, Utah, by neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Rich.
A microdiscectomy is surgery through a small incision to remove bulging disc material so it's not pushing against the nerve.
It will be the first Masters the four-time champion at Augusta National will miss since he first played as an amateur in 1995.
"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. "I'd like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters. It's a week that's very special to me. It also looks like I'll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.
"I'd also like to thank the fans for their support and concern. It's very kind and greatly appreciated. This is frustrating, but it's something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health."
It will be the fifth major championship Woods will have missed since 2008.
"Tiger was gracious in keeping us updated of his condition and making us aware of his decision," said Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament. "We wholeheartedly offered our best wishes for his immediate and long-term recovery. Tiger will be in our thoughts and will be missed by our patrons and all of us at the Masters Tournament next week. He is one of our most decorated champions and we look forward to his healthy return in 2015 and beyond."
Within a week, Woods wrote on his web site that he will begin intensive rehabilitation and soft-tissue treatment. With an OK from his doctors, Woods could begin chipping and putting in three weeks.
Woods said his goal is to resume playing this summer. He wrote that there should be no long-lasting effects from the surgery, and it should not impact the longevity of his career. He is still eyeing the records hold by Jack Nicklaus for most major championships won (18) and Sam Snead for most PGA Tour titles won (82). Woods has been stuck on 14 majors since winning the 2008 U.S. Open on a bad leg. He won five Tour titles last year to move to 79.
"It's tough right now, but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," Woods said. "There are a couple [of] records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I've said many times, Sam and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."
After the Masters, the next major is the U.S. Open on the No. 2 Course of the Pinehurst Resort on June 12-15 in Pinehurst, N.C.
Notah Begay, Woods' friend and former college roommate, called the back procedure "minimally invasive."
"It's not a lost year. It's an opportunity to try to perform at a higher level for three majors versus performing at a lower level for four majors," said Begay, an analyst on the Golf Channel. "Or if he were to get hurt again possibly cost him playing in the major championships during the summer."
Golfer Steve Stricker called Woods' withdrawal from the Masters unfortunate but said the tournament will still go on.
"Tiger not being there will obviously take away from some of that (excitement), but they'll still be a lot of buzz," Stricker said on the Golf Channel.
"It's something we all face as golfers," Stricker said of injuries. "You have these nagging little injuries and sometimes you've just got to take the time to deal with it and get it right so you can continue to play on."
Woods has been hindered by back spasms since last August, when he fell to his knees during the final round of The Barclays after hitting a shot on the 13th hole.
Earlier this year, he withdrew with five holes to play in the final round of the Honda Classic, then was bothered by his back the following week at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. Two weeks later, Woods, an eight-time winner at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, withdrew from that tournament before it started in what was supposed to be his final tune-up for the Masters.
Woods, 38, missed the 2008 British Open and PGA Championship after having reconstructive left knee surgery after winning the U.S. Open that year, his 14th and last triumph in a major. He also missed the 2011 U.S. Open and British Open because of an Achilles injury he suffered while hitting a shot off the pine straw under the Eisenhower Tree in the 2011 Masters.
He also dealt with an elbow injury during last year's U.S. Open and was forced to withdraw from his own AT&T National two weeks later. He withdrew from The Players Championship in 2010 (neck injury) and 2011 (Achilles).
Begay, who battled back problems during his own career, said it pained him to see the amount of discomfort Woods was in on a regular basis.
"Telling Tiger Woods to back off the training is like telling someone they can't have their morning coffee," Begay said. "It's part of his daily routine, he loves to train, he loves to work, he loves to practice….getting rid of the pain, getting the back strong, which I am 100 percent confident that he's going to be able to do, is of the utmost importance right now."