Tiger Woods lasted five minutes in practice session aimed at proving Masters fitness

James Corrigan
Tiger Woods withdrew from the Masters due to ongoing back trouble - AP

Tiger Woods lasted just five minutes in a practice session that was designed to prove his fitness on Thursday before deciding not to play in the 81st Masters.

Woods announced his withdrawal on Friday evening via on his official website. Now, with the game questioning not “when” the 41-year-old will return to competition but “if”, the Golf Channel reported on his crucial dress rehearsal on the range at the Medalist club near his Florida home.

Sources were quoted as seeing Woods testing his full, driver swing, but looking “stiff” and “uncomfortable” before aborting the session prematurely. His manager, Mark Steinberg, claimed that, despite being sidelined for two months with ongoing back spasms, his client had held genuine ambitions of playing on the 20th anniversary of his famous Masters breakthrough. “He just started hitting balls in a full capacity this week and so the timetable got so condensed there was no way for him to get ready to play next week,” Steinberg said.

But Steinberg dismissed fears that Woods’s career could be over. “He’s not done,” Steinberg said, while admitting there was no timetable for a return. With multi-million dollar contracts dependent on him being an active player, Woods would obviously be in no rush to make such a huge judgment. The truth might be, he does not even know himself.

The Open in July at Birkdale could easily be his next target, considering the US Open, at Erin Hills, is no place for a player with spinal problems to risk a comeback. After 15 months out because of multiple back surgeries, Woods started this year with so much hope, but after missing the cut after his return at Torrey Pines, he lasted one round at the Dubai Desert Classic. He resumed short-game practice three weeks ago, with his coach, Chris Como, joining him. But it was futile fight.

Tiger Woods is promoting a book about his 1997 Masters victory  Credit: AFP

“I did about everything I could to play, but my back rehabilitation didn’t allow me the time to get tournament ready,” he said. “I’m especially upset because it’s a special anniversary for me that’s filled with a lot of great memories… I will continue my diligent effort to recover, and want to get back out there as soon as possible.”

Woods will be here in Augusta, however. He will attend Tuesday’s Champions’ Dinner, hosted by England’s Danny Willett, and is also give a press conference that day, presumably to promote his recently published book about the 1997 Masters.

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