“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. …
“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.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg spoke with Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte and rebutted the rumors:
“I have no idea who Mr. Wacker’s really close sources are. I can tell you this, nobody spoke to him (Wacker); so how he could know something that Tiger and I don’t know is comical,” Steinberg said. “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.”
Asked if Woods has hit balls at his compound on Jupiter Island, or if he has been putting as the report stated, Steinberg answered: “I don’t want to talk about specifics yet. When we’re ready to get into that, we’ll disclose it. He’s working hard at getting better, he’s working hard at progressing.”
Neither of these seems like breaking news anymore. Woods’ back is a problem and “sources” pop up all over the place with their own take on his health and then Steinberg swoops in with a statement rebutting whatever is said.
As I wrote after Woods released a statement on his website in which he said he would not be able to play at Bay Hill, the Arnold Palmer Invitational is the only tournament that made any sense for him to make a return prior to the Masters. It’s a course he’s had a lot of success on and is close to his home in Jupiter.
Now that he’s skipped that event, it seems unlikely that he would choose to make a return at the Masters, and that is the best decision he could make. There’s no point in returning and embarrassing yourself on the biggest stage of the year if you aren’t prepared or healthy enough and it doesn’t appear like he’s either of those.
At the age of 41 Tiger is still young enough to compete, but his body doesn’t seem to want to allow that and if he forces the issue too soon like he has in the past he could end up injuring himself even further. Who knows what kind of effects that would have on his back for the rest of his life.
Woods, who will make an appearance in New York on Monday, the first since he withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic and skipped his press conference at the Genesis Open, seems to be making a slow transition away from playing. He’s wrapped all of his business and tournament hosting ventures under the TGR brand and even though he signed on to play TaylorMade clubs, it’s been rumored that he may be a part of a group who could purchase the company.
We all want to know if Woods will play in the Masters this year and test his luck in a tournament that he can participate in until he decides otherwise, but does he want to?
Tiger did take a couple of months off in 2015 before the Masters and then turned in a top 20 finish, but that was two years ago and he’s had a few more back surgeries since then.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to sit this one out.