With Tiger Woods recuperating from back surgery, the Masters could suffer from a shortage of star power when first-round play begins next week.
The world's No. 1-ranked golfer might be joined on the sideline by two colleagues in the top five — Phil Mickelson and Jason Day — who have recently battled injuries.
Woods announced Tuesday that he underwent a microdiscectomy in Park City, Utah, to treat a pinched nerve and would require several weeks, if not more, of rehabilitation.
"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," he stated on his website.
"This is frustrating," he added, "but it's something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health."
Microdiscectomy is a common procedure in which doctors remove material from a bulging disk to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and adjacent nerves.
This will mark the fifth time that Woods has missed a major championship but the first time he has skipped the Masters since making his debut there as an amateur in 1995.
"Tiger will be in our thoughts and will be missed by our patrons and all of us at the Masters tournament," said Billy Payne, the Augusta National chairman.
There has been no word yet from other golfers trying to recover from injury by April 10.
A pulled muscle forced Mickelson to withdraw from the Valero Texas Open last weekend. Day, who could not finish the 2012 Masters because of ankle pain, has missed two scheduled events because of a sore thumb.
"If I get to Augusta and it is like this, which I am hoping it isn't, I don't know what I will do," Day told the Australian Associated Press last month. "Hopefully, worst-case scenario is just a small bit of pain I can try to work through."
A lower-back injury kept Hunter Mahan from completing the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month and Bubba Watson withdrew from that tournament citing allergies.
For Woods, this latest setback — following knee surgery in 2008 and an Achilles' injury in 2011 — puts another hold on his pursuit of 18 major victories, a record held by Jack Nicklaus.
"I know Tiger has been working very hard to return to form, and as I have said many times, Tiger has a lot of years of good golf ahead of him," Nicklaus said in a statement. "I hate to see him robbed of some of that time by injury."
The 38-year-old Woods won at Augusta in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005. He has also been runner-up twice.
Back spasms have been a problem for him since last summer and he recently missed the Palmer tournament in hopes of being rested and ready for next week.
At the time, Palmer assessed Woods' chances of equaling or surpassing Nicklaus. Woods has been stuck at 14 majors since winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
"I don't think 38 years is the ultimate stopping point for his quest to do what Jack did," Palmer said. "I think it lessens the possibility of that happening. It's going to be tough."
Woods planned to begin intensive physical therapy in coming days and said he could be chipping and putting by the end of the month. His goal is to return to the PGA Tour by summer. The U.S. Open begins June 12 at Pinehurst.
In addition to chasing Nicklaus, he needs four more PGA Tour victories to eclipse Sam Snead's record of 82 career wins.
"It's tough right now, but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," Woods stated. "There are a couple 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," he stated. "I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."
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