Tiger Woods to skip the Players Championship as the Masters nears

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Tiger Woods, left, lines up a putt with his son Charlie on the 11th green during a practice round of the Father Son Challenge golf tournament, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods is not in the field for The Players Championship next week, opening questions about whether or where the five-time Masters champion will play before Augusta National.

The Players already is missing a bevy of big names from those who joined LIV Golf. Now it’s missing the biggest draw in golf.

There was not an immediate reason why Woods chose not to play at the TPC Sawgrass, where he has won twice. He was not listed in the field that the PGA Tour released Friday. Even though injuries have severely limited his schedule, he would be eligible from his five-year exemption from winning the 2019 Masters.

For Woods, his road to the Masters could be the Seminole Pro-Member last week in Florida. He played 18 holes with PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh. Otherwise, his only competition this year was 24 holes at the Genesis Invitational, where Woods withdrew after six holes in the second round at Riviera with the flu.

Woods had surgery to fuse his right ankle after the Masters last year and didn’t return until the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December. He has said walking was no longer as big an issue, though he still got sore from other parts of his body. He has had five surgeries on his back.

Even so, he was optimistic he could play once a month through the majors in 2024. He never committed to The Players, though it made sense for a once-a-month schedule as the tour’s premier championship on a course he has won twice.

The Valspar Championship is after The Players. Woods played there in 2018 and was runner-up, but he has never returned. The only other two tournaments remaining are the Houston Open, which he has never played, and the Texas Open, which he last played on a sponsor exemption when he was 20 and just out of college in 1996.

Then again, he has a history of showing up at the Masters without much competition. The most notable example was in 2022, when Woods played for the first time since crashing his car in Los Angeles and shattering bones in lower right leg. Woods finished 47th that year.

He also went five months without playing in 2010, after his personal life came crashing down around him when he was exposed for having multiple extramarital affairs. He opened with a 68 and tied for fourth, five shots behind Phil Mickelson.

Woods has never missed the cut at the Masters as a pro.

The Players Championship still has a stacked field, starting with defending champion Scottie Scheffler. With Woods not playing, the last player currently in the field is Alexander Bjork.

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