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Tiger to miss Players Championship with back issue: report

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Miami (AFP)

Reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods will miss next week's US PGA Tour Players Championship with a back issue, the 15-time major winner's agent told ESPN on Friday.

With less than two hours before the deadline to commit to next week's event at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, agent Mark Steinberg told ESPN that Woods was not ready to play.

"Back just not ready," Steinberg said. "Not concerning long term, just not ready."

It's the short term that is becoming of concern for Woods, who will miss the biggest Masters tuneup and have only three weeks of competition before defending his title at Augusta National.

Woods, ranked 11th, skipped this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational with what his agent described to ESPN as back stiffness. Woods also missed last week's Honda Classic and the WGC Mexico Championship the week before that.

The last time Woods played was in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera three weeks ago, when he placed 68th. His only other 2020 start came at Torrey Pines in January when he shared ninth.

Woods, who collected a fifth green jacket last August, would have the Valspar Championship on March 19-22 and the WGC Match Play in Austin, Texas, on March 25-29 as well as the Texas Open on April 2-5 before official Masters practice sessions begin, but he typically skips playing the week before the Masters.

Woods won The Players Championship in 2001 and 2013 at TPC Sawgrass, with only three-time winner Jack Nicklaus having captured more titles in the event.

At 44, Woods has played a lighter schedule in recent seasons in the wake of multiple back surgeries, including a spinal fusion operation in 2017.

He slowly worked his way back into form after that, including a runner-up effort at the 2018 PGA Championship and victory at the 2018 Tour Championship, setting the stage for his first major win in 11 years last April at Augusta National, completing an epic comeback saga.

Woods won the Zozo Championship last October in Japan for his 82nd career US PGA title, matching Sam Snead atop the all-time tour win list.

He then went on to finish fourth at the Hero World Challenge he hosts in the Bahamas before flying to Australia and serving as a playing captain in the US team's victory over the Internationals at Melbourne.

Woods is ranked seventh among American players, three spots behind where he would need to be in June to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Even with Dustin Johnson saying he will not compete in Japan, Woods would still need to pass two compatriots to grab a berth in the Olympics.

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