Tiger Woods chose surgery to heal his ailing back over a quest for another green jacket, announcing Tuesday that he will miss the Masters for the first time.
The four-time Masters champ said on his website that he had surgery Monday in Utah for a pinched nerve that had been hurting him for several months, knowing the surgery would keep him from Augusta National next week for the first time since he was a senior in high school.
"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, said Woods, 38. "I'd like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters.
"It's a week that's very special to me. It also looks like I'll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy."
Woods said he had a microdiscectomy — minimally invasive spine surgery to relieve pressure and pain. Operating through a small incision in the lower back, surgeons remove small disc fragments that are pressing against spinal nerves. The average recovery time is 12 to 16 weeks. Dr. Andrew Hecht, chief of spine surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said 90 percent of elite athletes fully recover.
The U.S. Open is June 12-15, the British Open is July 17-20 and the PGA is Aug. 7-10.
"I know Tiger has been working very hard to return to form, and … Tiger has a lot of years of good golf ahead of him," Jack Nicklaus said. "I hate to see him robbed of some of that time by injury. But we all know he is doing what is in the best interest of his health and future. I wish him well on a speedy recovery."
Gary Player tweeted a plea that it was just an April Fools joke.
Nicklaus played 154 straight majors for which he was eligible until he missed the 1998 British Open with an ailing left hip. Nicklaus rarely had injury problems in compiling a record 18 major victories. Woods has been stuck on 14 majors for six years, and is three PGA Tour titles short of Sam Snead's career record of 82.
"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."
LPGA: Second-ranked Suzann Pettersen withdrew from this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship because of an aggravated disk in her back.