(Reuters) - Tiger Woods will skip next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, leaving him with little time to sharpen his game enough for the year’s first major, the April 9-12 Masters.
But the former world number one says he still hopes to play in the Masters.
Woods, who had back surgery last year, has played just two PGA Tour events this season and said last month he would not return to competition until he felt his game was “tournament-ready”.
”I spoke to Arnold today and told him that I will not play in his tournament this year,“ Woods wrote on his website on Friday. ”I‘m sorry I won’t be in Orlando next week, but I know it will be a really successful event.
”I’ve put in a lot of time and work on my game and I‘m making strides, but like I’ve said, I won’t return to the PGA Tour until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level.
“I hope to be ready for the Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta.”
Woods, a 14-times major champion, struggled badly in his first two events. Not only is his game in disarray, with some pundits believing he is suffering from the chipping ‘yips’, but his troublesome back is still posing problems.
He posted the highest score of his professional career, a mind-boggling 11-over-par 82, to miss the cut at the Phoenix Open in January.
He looked no better the following week 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.
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, whose world ranking has slipped to 79th, will need to improve markedly if he is to be ready for the Masters where he is a four-times former champion.
There are just two more PGA Tour events left after next week before the Masters -- the March 26-29 Texas Open and the April 2-5 Houston Open -- neither of which he generally plays.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Indian Wells, California; Editing by Gene Cherry