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PGA Golf

Tiger Woods won’t play at Bay Hill, putting appearance at Masters in doubt

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Tiger Woods on Friday announced via his official website that he will not play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill next week, calling into question whether the golfer will have his game in good enough working order to play in the Masters in April.

Woods’ announcement in its entirety:

I spoke to Arnold today and told him that I will not play in his tournament this year. I’m sorry I won’t be in Orlando next week, but I know it will be a really successful event.

I’ve put in a lot of time and work on my game and I’m making strides, but like I’ve said, I won’t return to the PGA TOUR until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level.

I hope to be ready for the Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta.

I want to thank everyone again for their support.

Woods’ comments about not returning to the PGA Tour until he believes his game is tournament-ready echoes his original announcement made on Feb. 11 that he was taken a leave of absence. His decision to take some time off came on the heels of an awful run of play highlighted by a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in January followed by a withdrawal the following week after only playing 11 holes in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open. He also played horribly in his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge, in December.

Speculation abounded following Woods’ original announcement regarding the reasons behind his decision — even Kid Rock had an opinion on the golfer — but perhaps none were more damning and universally panned when a journeyman PGA pro claimed he had heard Woods was serving an unannounced suspension for drugs, a ludicrous charge that was quickly debunked — and vehemently denied by Woods’ agent — when the accuser withdrew his claims.

Phil Mickelson said before Woods’ announcement that his longtime rival was “going to have the last laugh” after his struggles. It remains to be seen exactly when that will happen.

But perhaps what matters most about Woods’ decision not to play at Bay Hill next week is the notion that it severely jeopardizes the chances of him competing in the Masters. After missing the esteemed tournament last year due to injury — the first time Woods hasn’t played Augusta National since 1994 — the general belief was that the 39-year-old golfer would be itching to return to the scene of some of his greatest triumphs.

If Woods ultimately does not play the Masters, it apparently means that’s not the case or that his game is in such disarray he doesn’t want to go out and further humiliate himself.

(photo credit: Getty Images)