March 6 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods’ Masters preparation has suffered a setback as he is unable to return to action at next week’s Players Championship in Florida due to a back issue, ESPN reported on Friday.
“Back just not ready,” Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg said in the ESPN report. “Not concerning long term, just not ready.”
Former world number one Woods has not competed since the Genesis Invitational in mid February where he finished last among those who made the cut and complained of back stiffness.
Woods then skipped the WGC-Mexico Championship, Honda Classic and this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Players Championship, which is the PGA Tour’s flagship event and widely regarded as golf’s unofficial fifth major, will be played March 12-15 at TPC Sawgrass.
Woods, a two-time winner of the event, carded a three-under-par 69 in the final round last year en route to a share of 30th place before going on to capture his 15th major title four weeks later at the Masters.
The 44-year-old Woods has been shortening his schedule in recent years while battling numerous injuries but is now running out of options to get competitive rounds in ahead of the April 9-12 Masters.
Woods rarely plays the week before a major which means his decision to sit out another tournament leaves the March 19-22 Valspar Championship and following week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play as viable options before the year’s first major. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)