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PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Tiger Woods will skip next week's Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, raising questions about his prospects of competing in the year's first major, the April 9-12 Masters.
Woods, who had back surgery last year, has played just two PGA Tour events this season and said last week he would not return to competition until he felt his game was "tournament-ready."
"His manager spoke to us this afternoon and told us that Tiger will not play next week," Honda Classic media director Gary Ferman told Reuters.
Woods's manager Mark Steinberg later told Reuters by telephone: "Tiger has been working on his game this week and, right now, is looking to come back when he feels that he is tournament-ready."
Woods, a 14-times major champion, struggled badly in his first two events this year.
He posted the highest 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 two weeks ago at Torrey Pines where he was two over par after 11 holes when he decided to pull out because of tightness in his back, his third withdrawal in his last nine tournaments dating back to last year's Honda Classic.
Woods, who has not won a major title since the 2008 U.S. Open, is still adapting to the fifth swing change of his career.
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, the 39-year-old will need to improve markedly if he is to be ready for the Masters at Augusta National where he is a four-times former champion.
His world ranking has slipped to 66th, meaning he will not qualify for the opening World Golf Championships event of the year, the March 5-8 Cadillac Championship at Doral.
Based on his usual schedule, Woods would be expected to compete next at the March 19-22 Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
After that, there are two more PGA Tour events before the Masters, neither of which Woods generally plays.
"I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I'm ready, I'll be back," Woods said on his website last week. "I am committed to getting back to the pinnacle of my game."
Editing by Frank Pingue