BY DOUG FERGUSON
PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods won’t be at the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week and still doesn’t know when he will play again.
Woods announced on his website Thursday night that ongoing rest and rehabilitation on his back will keep him away from Bay Hill and the tournament he has won a record eight times. Woods said he was particularly disappointed because of a week at Bay Hill to celebrate the life of the tournament host.
Palmer died in September at 87.
“This is the one event I didn’t want to skip,” Woods said.
It will be the fourth consecutive year that Woods does not play Bay Hill dating to his two-shot victory in 2013 that returned him to No. 1 in the world. That was the 77th victory of his PGA Tour career. Woods won twice more that season, but none since then.
He has plunged to No. 713 in the world due to playing only 19 times on the PGA Tour dating to the start of 2014 because of injuries.
And he didn’t offer much insight into when he would play next.
“Presently, I have no timetable for my return to golf, but my treatments are continuing and going well,” Woods said.
Woods was out of competition for 15 months because of two back surgeries in the fall of 2015. He played his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas the first week of December, returned to the PGA Tour two months later at Torrey Pines (missed cut) and then withdrew after a 77 at the Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms.
Woods withdrew from the Genesis Open at Riviera — he even canceled his press conference — and the Honda Classic.
“We’re not talking about an extended break,” his agent, Mark Steinberg at Excel Sports Management, said in Los Angeles.
And yet that’s what this appears to be.
Woods withdrew from Dubai on Feb. 3. The Masters, which starts April 6, would be his next logical option. Woods is not eligible for the Dell Match Play in two weeks, and he has never played the week before the Masters.
When he stepped away because of the scandal in his personal life in Thanksgiving 2009, Woods did not play for roughly five months until he showed up at Augusta National. He shot 68 the first round and tied for fourth.
But he was coping with back issues in 2010.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is set for a big week of emotions and celebrations, featuring a bronze statue to be unveiled near the first tee, and Palmer’s cart parked behind the 16th tee of Bay Hill, his favorite spot to watch.
Woods noted that both his children were born at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, and he said he thought of the King as a “close friend.”
“He will be greatly missed and can never truly be replaced,” Woods said.
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