Is Tiger’s Masters defence looking in doubt?

(Orlando, FL:) Tiger Woods must now be in some doubt to defend his Masters title next month with confirmation continuing back concerns have forced him out of teeing-up in this week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

Woods, a two-time Players Championship winner (2001 & 2013), has only contested two events this year – the Farmers Insurance Open and the Genesis Invitational, which he hosted.

Tiger Woods Woods celebrates shortly after winning his 15th major title (Credit: PGA Tour)

“Back just not ready,” said long-time manager Mark Steinberg in a message to ESPN. “Nothing concerning, just not ready.”

“I have to listen to my body and properly rest when needed,” said Woods later on Twitter. “My back is simply just not ready for play next week.”

Woods’ decision comes amid a longer than usual layoff after he cited back stiffness and opted not to play in last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he has won eight times, most recently in 2013.

The 44-year-old has won 82 PGA Tour events and would move out of a tie with Sam Snead for the all-time PGA Tour wins record with his next victory.

He hasn’t competed since a last place finish after making the cut at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, where he has famously never won. He finished T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines prior to that.

It hasn’t been long, though, since the future World Golf Hall of Famer was in the winner’s circle. Woods won the ZOZO Championship last fall and went undefeated as playing captain at the Presidents Cup.

Last year, Woods bounced back from a neck injury to finish T30 at The Players, and four weeks later rallied to win the Masters Tournament for his 15th major.

Also in doubt is Jason Day, who pulled out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational during the second round citing back issues but is in this week’s Players Championship field at this stage.

The Queenslander’s career has been plagued by injury and if recent comments are any indication he may well give up the game entirely if things don’t improve for him.