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Tiger Woods needs to work on his game

Woods will take an indefinite leave from the PGA Tour, although he hopes to return at the end of the month

The sore back was bad enough.

Now it seems a different sort of pain — wayward drives and shaky chip shots — has gotten the best of Tiger Woods.

The former No. 1 player announced Wednesday that he will take an indefinite, though potentially brief, leave from the PGA Tour to practice at home.

"I need a lot of work on my game," he wrote on his website, adding: "My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf."

Woods was not scheduled to play at Pebble Beach this week or at Riviera after that. He hopes to return for the Honda Classic in Florida later this month but has not committed to any timetable.

"I won't be there unless my game is tournament-ready," he said. "That's not fair to anyone."

The first few weeks of his season could not have been more discouraging.

First came a dismal performance at the Phoenix Open, when he struggled through an 82 — the worst round of his career — on the way to missing the cut by 12 shots. Then he withdrew midway through the first round at Torrey Pines last week.

Woods blamed a fog delay that made it difficult to keep his gluteus maximus muscles loose.

"It's just my glutes are shutting off," he said. "Then they don't activate and then, hence, it goes into my lower back."

On Wednesday, Woods insisted that health concerns are not the primary cause for his leave of absence. He wrote: "I am having daily physical therapy and am feeling better every day."

Troubles for the man with 14 major championships on his resume began last spring when he underwent microdiscectomy surgery for a pinched nerve in his back. He returned to the Tour during the summer but walked away again in late August to continue recuperating.

At about the same time, Woods split with his swing coach, Sean Foley, and pored over videotape spanning his career back to junior play. Working with a new coach, Chris Como, he has sought to make his swing look more like it did during those early years.

There were some signs of progress in December at his annual charity tournament.

"Looked like the club was going through a lot freer," Steve Stricker said. "Looked like it was on a better path."

But his short game was inconsistent and looked even worse in Phoenix, where he left chip shots woefully short or skittered them well past the hole. Television commentators talked about him suffering from the "yips" and wondered how he might recover.

Woods managed a smile while talking to reporters after his second-round 82.

"Well, it's part of the process," he said. "You've got to get out there and do it."

There was no such optimism at Torrey Pines, where he expressed frustration at failing to stay healthy.

"I feel bad for the guy, with what he's going through," tournament winner Jason Day said.

This week, Woods dropped to No. 62 in the world, his lowest ranking since the early days of his professional career in 1996. That means he is not eligible for the upcoming WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

Woods, 39, insisted that he remains committed to returning to the pinnacle of his sport. But that might take some time.

"When I think I'm ready," he said, "I'll be back."

Follow David Wharton on Twitter @LATimesWharton

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