Tiger Woods withdrew from next week’s Masters Tournament following surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his back.
“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.
The golfer’s goal is to resume playing sometime this summer, according to a statement on his website.
The Masters, the first of golf’s four annual Grand Slam events, is scheduled for April 10-13 at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Woods had played in the tournament 19 straight years and won the most recent of his four titles there in 2005.
The No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, Woods last won a major tournament title at the 2008 U.S. Open in Torrey Pines, California. He is four wins shy of matching Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major titles and nine away from tying Sam Snead’s 82 U.S. PGA Tour victories.
“It’s tough right now, but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future,” Woods said. “There are a couple 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.”
Woods, 38, returned to the sport at the 2009 Masters following a five-month layoff when he admitted having extramarital affairs. It led to 50 percent higher year-over-year television ratings for the opening round of the tournament. At the time it was the most-watched broadcast in cable TV history.
While broadcasters and fans alike would prefer that Woods was playing in the Masters, the tournament “will survive and I’m sure do well in television ratings,” said former CBS Sports head Neal Pilson.
In 2009, when Woods missed eight months of action following knee surgery, Pilson, now the president of Pilson Communications, said that Woods’s absence from tournaments caused a 30 percent to 40 percent drop in ratings.
“That was true then, I don’t think it’s true now,” Pilson said today in a telephone interview after hearing the news about Woods. “He’s not playing that well and people don’t expect much from Tiger at this point, so I don’t foresee any significant ratings impact. Frankly, the way Tiger’s been playing you’d have to question whether he’d make the cut.”
In his last seven official U.S. tour events, Woods has finished in the top 10 once, when he tied for second behind winner Adam Scott at the Barclays in New Jersey.
The first time Woods won the Masters, in 1997, the tournament drew over 20 million viewers, according Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media. He said Woods would still affect the ratings if he has a chance to win.
“If Tiger’s in the hunt and the final round is really close between him and other well-known players, that would impact the ratings,” Adgate said.
Woods’s presence on leaderboards has boosted TV ratings throughout his career and his absence from it has led to declines. For example, when Woods missed time in 2008 while recovering from knee surgery, there was a 60 percent ratings drop for Nick Watney’s Buick Invitational victory, the year after Woods won the event for the fourth straight time.
Woods skipped last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida, an event he had won a record eight times, including the past two years, due to his back ailment. He also withdrew during the final round of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, three weeks earlier and finished 25th at the Cadillac Championship in Miami.
Woods will require rest and rehabilitation for weeks, though he may begin chipping and putting in three weeks, according to his website.
“It also looks like I’ll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy,’” Woods said.
Golf’s next major tournament, the U.S. Open, is scheduled to be played June 12-15 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
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