Tiger Woods won't play at Bay Hill

ByBob Harig ESPN logo
Friday, March 13, 2015

Tiger Woods will not play in next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, skipping the tournament he has won eight times to continue working on his game.

Woods made the announcement via Twitter on Friday afternoon. Woods, who also missed the Arnold Palmer tournament last year due to pending back surgery, won the event in 2012 and 2013, but has not been back to the tournament near Orlando, Florida, since.

Woods, 39, has now missed at least two tournaments he usually plays in, the Honda Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The only other tournaments prior to the Masters are the Valero Texas Open and the Shell Houston Open -- he last played the Valero event in 1996 and has never played the Houston tournament. If he doesn't play in one of the Texas events prior to Augusta, he'll go into the season's first major having played just 47 holes, his last coming on Feb. 5 at Torrey Pines.

"I've put in a lot of time and work on my game and I'm making strides, but like I've said, I won't return to the PGA Tour until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level," Woods said on his website Friday. "I hope to be ready for the Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta."

Notah Begay, Woods' longtime friend, has spent time with Woods in recent weeks. He also helped put him with his swing consultant, Chris Como.

"I spent quite a bit of time the last couple of weeks down at Tiger's house, trying to be a good running mate and going through workouts and practicing with him,'' Begay said during Golf Channel's Friday telecast of the Valspar Championship. "I can attest to the fact that things are improving and that he is putting in some solid workdays. It is just not at the status that he wants it.

"Sometimes it is difficult when you want to get out there, and your heart tells you that you want to be playing competitive golf because you want to see your friends and he's won so many of these events. At the end of the day, if his game isn't going to hold up from tee to green and around the greens -- especially with the question marks around his short game -- I think it is a good decision to hold off until he is 100 percent."

Woods has four Masters victories, the last coming 10 years ago in a playoff over Chris DiMarco.

"He's grinding. He's really, really working," his agent, Mark Steinberg, told ESPN.com. "Everyone knows he's working toward the Masters, he wants to play there. But having said that, he really wanted to play in the worst way [at Bay Hill]. He wanted to play at Honda."

Steinberg added, "He sounds more positive. He sounds encouraged. I think he is standing firm to what he said prior to Honda, [that] 'I'm not going to come back until I'm tournament ready and can play at that level.' He's living up to that and he is going to until he feels he can compete."

Woods announced on Feb. 11 that he was taking time away.

"My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf," he said at that time on his website. "Like I've said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I'm ready, I'll be back."

After playing just nine worldwide tournaments in 2014 -- two of which he withdrew from due to injury -- Woods missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in January, shooting a second-round 82, his highest score as a professional.

The following week at the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods withdrew after just 11 holes of the first round, citing stiffness in his lower back that occurred after a lengthy fog delay. He said in his Feb. 11 statement that it was not related to his surgery.

In both tournaments, Woods struggled with his short game.

When Woods made his announcement a month ago, he said, "I do expect to be playing again very soon."

Last year Woods missed the Masters for the first time since 1994, having played in it for 19 straight years. He has not won the green jacket since the last of his four victories at Augusta National in 2005.

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