Tiger Woods, who’s 44 years old and nursing a balky back, on Friday informed officials at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that he won’t be playing next week at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla.
Woods, who has undergone multiple back surgeries, has cited back stiffness as his reason to miss the tournament, which he has won eight times in his career, for the second consecutive year.
Woods missed the event last year because of neck strain that forced him to withdraw tournament week.
“He is not going to play,’’ Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, told ESPN Friday. “Back still stiff and just not quite ready.’’
After finishing last two weeks ago at the Genesis Invitational, the event he and his foundation host, Woods said he didn’t think he would be physically ready to play in Mexico.
This news comes as a surprise considering the time Woods has had to rest since the Genesis.
He’s expected to play The Players Championship next week at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Woods has said all along his No. 1 priority is to prepare for the Masters, April 9-12. Woods won his fifth green jacket last year and is expected to defend his title — as long as he’s able physically.
He played 18 times last year and has hinted he might scale back on that number this year.
“That’s the fun part of trying to figure this whole comeback — how much do I play, when do I play, do I listen to the body or do I fight through it?’’ Woods said during the Genesis Invitational. “There are some things I can push and some things I can’t. And so I had a theory this year that I may play about the same amount. What did I play, 12 times last year [during the 2018-19 season], and so that’s kind of my number for the year.
“I can’t play a lot more than that just because of the physical toll, and I want to stay out here for just a little bit longer.’’
Woods never really contended last year after winning the Masters. He had arthroscopic knee surgery and disclosed that his left knee had been bothering him for much of the year.
More than two months after surgery, in his first event following the knee procedure, Woods won the Zozo Championship in Japan for his 82nd PGA Tour title, which tied Sam Snead for the most all-time wins on the PGA Tour.
Expectations for a big 2020 rose for Woods when he finished fourth at the Hero World Challenge, went 3-0 at the Presidents Cup and tied for ninth last month at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Now, those expectations likely have to be tempered.