LOS ANGELES (AFP) - World number one Tiger Woods said Tuesday he would not be able to play in the Masters after undergoing back surgery earlier this week to treat a pinched nerve that has been troubling him for several months.
"Sad to say I'm missing the Masters. Thanks to the fans for so many kind wishes," Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, said on Twitter and on his website.
It will be the first time Woods has missed the Masters, which starts on Thursday, since he made his debut at Augusta National in Georgia as an amaetur in 1995.
The surgery was performed on Monday in Park City, Utah, by neurosurgeon Charles Rich, and the 38-year-old will require several weeks 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," Woods said in a statement.
"I'd like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters.
"It's a week that's very special to me. It also looks like I'll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.
"It's tough right now, but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," said Woods, who has had a succession of crippling injuries over the last few years to his knees, wrists and now back.
Woods has played in every Masters since 1995 and has become he tournament's star turn and biggest draw. The following year, he missed his only cut at Augusta National just a few months prior to turning pro.
In 1997, in his first major championship as a pro, Woods won the Masters by a record 12 shots, the first of his 14 major titles. He went on to win the Masters in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
Since his last victory at Augusta, Woods has seven top-10 finishes in eight appearances and six top-5s, including last year, when he tied for fourth, four strokes behind winner Adam Scott.
"There are a couple records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break," he added.
"As I've said many times, Sam (Snead) and Jack (Nicklaus) reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine." Snead won a record 82 PGA Tour events, including seven majors.