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Woods to miss Masters after back surgery

Published: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 12:05 a.m. CDT

If Jack Nicklaus had played for the ‘72 Dolphins, he would have uncorked a bottle of champagne Tuesday.

His record of 18 major championships once looked like a rest stop for Tiger Woods; now it’s more like scaling the Himalayas.

But, really, no one celebrated the news that Woods would miss the Masters for the first time in his professional career.

Golf’s biggest stage will not be the same without golf’s biggest draw.

Even his detractors would rather see him play and fail than go on injured reserve.

Woods conveyed the news on Twitter, writing: “Sad to say I’m missing the Masters. Thanks to the fans for so many kind wishes.”

Some fans replied with #WorstAprilFoolsJoke.

But back injuries are no joke. Woods has completed one four-round tour event this year after withdrawing from the Honda Classic a month ago and declining to enter the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He underwent microdiscectomy surgery Monday for a pinched nerve. The procedure, which took place in Park City, Utah, requires weeks of rest and rehabilitation that will sideline him until “sometime this summer,” according to his website.

Most believe he will miss at least three to four months, and ESPN golf analyst Paul Azinger tweeted: “This is as career threatening an injury as his knee.”

The release quotes Woods as “absolutely optimistic about the future. There are a couple (of) records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I’ve said many times, Sam (Snead) and Jack (Nicklaus) reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine.”

Woods is 38 and has had four knee surgeries. He limped around on a fractured left leg at the 2008 U.S. Open, his last major victory. Neck inflammation knocked him out of the 2010 Players Championship. A left Achilles issue led to a withdrawal at Doral in 2012. Last year at the U.S. Open, a left elbow issue emerged. And then his back gave way late in the season.

The world’s top-ranked golfer has been stuck on 14 majors since his SUV crashed into a fire hydrant and his world came crashing down.

Since 2010, he has missed four cuts, withdrawn from four events and gone winless at the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA.

He has won eight PGA Tour events since 2010 to get within three of Snead’s record 82. But only two men have won four or more majors after their 38th birthday — Ben Hogan (five) and Nicklaus (four).

Woods playing at Augusta has been a tradition unlike any other.

He has not missed a Masters since 1994. It’s where he chose to return after the scandal that wrecked his marriage. And last year he played on despite taking an illegal drop that led to his signing an incorrect scorecard.

Masters Chairman Billy Payne offered the club’s “best wishes for (Woods’) immediate and long-term recovery.”

Nicklaus, his record looking more unbreakable each day, said: “Tiger has a lot of years of good golf ahead of him. I hate to see him robbed of some of that time by injury.”

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©2014 the Chicago Tribune

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