Los Angeles: World number one Tiger Woods won’t give up on his quest to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors despite undergoing back surgery which means he will miss the Masters.
Woods withdrew from the April 10-13 championship at Augusta National — it will be the first time he has missed golf’s premier tournament – following surgery Monday to repair a pinched nerve which had been troubling him for several months.
The 38-year-old American, a 14-time Major winner, said Tuesday: “It also looks like I’ll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.
“It’s tough right now, but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future.”
Woods, who has triumphed at the Masters four times, will begin intensive rehabilitation within a week, with doctors estimating he could be chipping and putting again in three weeks, and playing again sometime this summer in time for the US and British Opens.
“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 (Snead) and Jack (Nicklaus) reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine,” Woods said.
Woods has had a succession of crippling injuries over the last few years to his knees, wrists and now back, the result of employing one of the most dynamic swings in all of golf.
Nicklaus believes Woods will overcome his mounting injury woes.
“I hate to see him robbed of that time by injury. But we all know he is doing what is in the best interest of his health and future,” said Nicklaus.
Woods has endured a nightmare start to a crucial year in his chase to set golf’s major win record.
Last month he withdrew in the final round of the Honda Classic, then battled back spasms to a last-round 78 at Doral and skipped the Arnold Palmer Invitational, typically his last warm-up for the first major of the year.
Fellow American Steve Stricker said he was not surprised that Woods chose to have the surgery now.
“A lot of us saw this coming and I had heard that he had been making some decisions about his future, but not just in the next month or two but over the next 10 years,” said Stricker.
Former British Open winner Darren Clarke and also a good friend of Woods particularly since the death of Clarke’s first wife agreed with Stricker.
“It is very disappointing and I feel for him as Augusta is one of his favourite tournaments but his health is more important than any golf tournament,” said Clarke.
“But I am sure with the right rehab and the right doctors and stuff he will be alright.
“You have to remember that Tiger is the sort of guy that who has played through a lot of pain before and if he’s pulled out then he obviously doesn’t think he can compete.”
Britain’s former World No 1 Luke Donald said that Woods being absent would hurt the game’s profile.
“It is disappointing for the fans and the game of golf because Tiger is a big part of what we play for and he’s obviously he main attraction when it comes to golf tournaments,” said Donald.
“He brings in the crowds and the fans and it is not a stronger game without him.
“So we all wish him a speedy recovery because no one out here likes getting injured but then we are fortunate in this game we get to play for a number of years, and while we always try to avoid injury, we all hope he gets back out here healthy and soon.”
Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said that Woods would be badly missed.
“We wholeheartedly offered our best wishes for his immediate and long-term recovery,” Payne said.
Woods may yet be joined on the absent list at Augusta by great rival and three-time winner Phil Mickelson, who was forced to pull out of last week’s Texas Open with a strained muscle in his side. Earlier in the year he too was sidelined with back pain.
Woods has played in every Masters since 1995 and has become the tournament’s star turn and biggest draw. The following year, he missed his only cut at Augusta National just a few months prior to turning pro.
In 1997, in his first major championship as a pro, Woods won the Masters by a record 12 shots. He went on to win the Masters in 2001, 2002 and 2005.