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Jeff Schultz

Tiger Woods out; Masters, ratings will take hit

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Tiger Woods would draw crowds wherever he went at the Masters, including the practice range. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Tiger Woods would always draw crowds at the Masters, even the practice range. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Masters has been one of the world’s premier sports events for decades, so this isn’t to suggest that Tiger Woods’ stunning announcement that he’s pulling out of the tournament because of back surgery will reduce the tournament to a local putt-putt tournament on the giraffe course at Mountasia.

But the Masters just became less interesting.

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First the Eisenhower Tree goes down, now this:

Woods, who has been suffering from back spasms recently, announced on his website TigerWoods.com that he underwent a microdiscectomy on Monday in Park City, Utah, and is pulling out of the tournament. A full copy of the statement is below.

Woods sent this message out on Twitter:

This will be the first time Woods has missed the Masters in his career. He hasn’t won at Augusta National since 2005. He hasn’t won a major since the U.S. Open in 2008. But he is the No. 1 ranked player in the world and remains the most interesting golfer on the Tour. He draws the biggest galleries — by a longshot — and stirs the most media attention and biggest television ratings. With the chance that Phil Mickelson also may miss the Masters because of a strained oblique, there’s a chance the jewel of the golf season will be without its two biggest attractions.

It doesn’t matter whether you love Woods or hate him, or fall somewhere in between. Next week won’t be the same without him teeing off on Thursday, even if the chances of him winning seemed less than great, given his recent health issues.

Because Woods’ announcement coincided with April Fools Day, sone have wondered whether this was some elaborate joke. But I phoned the office of his agent, Mark Steinberg and was assured by an assistant that, “Everything on TigerWoods.com is accurate.” So if this is a joke, they’re going to great extremes to pull it off.

He suffered from back spasms last fall and again recently at the Honda Classic, leading him to withdraw from the tournament during the final round. When he shot a final-round career-high of 78 in the WGC Cadillac Championship, it reaffirmed the seriousness of his condition.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne released a statement on Woods’ absence: “Tiger was gracious in keeping us updated of his condition and making us aware of his decision.  We wholeheartedly offered our best wishes for his immediate and long-term recovery.  Tiger will be in our thoughts and will be missed by our patrons and all of us at the Masters Tournament next week. He is one of our most decorated champions and we look forward to his healthy return in 2015 and beyond.”

Here is Woods’ full statement from TigerWoods.com:

Tiger Woods announced Tuesday that he has undergone a successful microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve that has been hurting him for several months.

The surgery was performed Monday in Park City, Utah, by neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Rich.

The procedure was successful, but Woods will be unable to play in the Masters Tournament, instead requiring rest and rehabilitation for the next several weeks.

“After attempting to get ready for the Masters, and failing to make the necessary progress, I decided, in consultation with my doctors, to have this procedure done,” Woods said.

“I’d like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters,” Tiger added. “It’s a week that’s very special to me. It also looks like I’ll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.

“I’d also like to thank the fans for their support and concern. It’s very kind and greatly appreciated. This is frustrating, but it’s something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health.”

Woods will begin intensive rehabilitation and soft-tissue treatment within a week. Healing and recovery times differ for each individual based on many physiological factors, but Woods could begin chipping and putting, after assessment by his doctors, in three weeks.

The goal is for Tiger to resume playing sometime this summer. The repetitive motion from golf can cause this injury, and Woods could have sustained further damage if he had continued to play. There should be no long-lasting effects from the surgery, and it should not impact the longevity of his career.

“It’s tough right now, but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future,” Woods said. “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 and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine.”

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