By Mark Lamport-Stokes
Tiger Woods does not plan to return to the PGA Tour until he feels his game is “tournament-ready,” the American former world number one said.
The 14-time major champion, who had back surgery last year, withdrew from last week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, his second start of the season, after just 11 holes because of tightness in his back.
Based on his usual tournament schedule, Woods, 39, would be expected to compete next at the February 26-March 1 Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida.
“Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me,”Woods said on his website.
“I’d like to play the Honda Classic – it’s a tournament in my hometown and it’s important to me – but I won’t be there unless my game is tournament-ready. That’s not fair to anyone.
“I do, however, expect to be playing again very soon.”
Woods has struggled badly in his first two events this year.
He posted the worst score of his professional career, with his short game in complete disarray, as he carded a mind-boggling 11-over-par 82 to miss the cut at the Phoenix Open last month.
He looked no better last week at Torrey Pines where he was two over par after 11 holes on the North course when he decided to pull out, his third withdrawal in his last nine tournaments.
“The last two weeks have been very disappointing to me, especially Torrey, because I never want to withdraw,” said Woods. “Unfortunately, lately injuries have made that happen too often.
“This latest injury is not related to my previous surgery. I am having daily physical therapy and I am feeling better every day.”
“My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf.”
Woods, who has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open, is still adapting to the fifth swing change of his career, this time with new consultant Chris Como.
The four majors have always been the top priority for Woods, who has a burning desire to eclipse the record 18 titles won by Jack Nicklaus.
However, he will need to improve his game markedly if he is to be ready for the year’s opening major, the April 9-12 Masters at Augusta National where he is a four-time former champion.
“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,” he said.
“Next week I will practice at Medalist and at home getting ready for the rest of the year. I am committed to getting back to the pinnacle of my game.”