Golf: Tiger Woods 'right on track' for Masters

Woods withdrew from last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods withdrew from last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational. Photo credit: Getty

Tiger Woods insists his preparation is on track for next month's Masters, despite a neck injury interrupting his schedule leading up to the Augusta National Major.

The 14-time Major champion withdrew from last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, which he has won a record eight times, citing a neck strain that also prevented him from practising until Saturday.

Woods always planned to contest six US PGA Tour events, including this week's elite Players Championship, between January and the Masters, but skipping the Palmer event means he will likely play five.

Speaking on Wednesday (NZ time), before the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Woods said he was on pace for the Masters, where he will attempt to win a 15th Major and fifth Augusta 'green jacket'.

"I've played three tournaments this year so far and that's about right," two-time Players champion Woods said. "I was [only ever] going to play three or four [before the Players]. 

"If I [played] last week, it would have been four tournaments, so I'm right where I need to be."

In his three PGA Tour starts this year, Woods has been solid, finishing in the top 20 each time, including a share of 10th at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

"My finishes are getting a little bit better each time and I've gotten a little more consistent with my play," he said.

"I think everything is headed on track towards April [the Masters]."

Considering Woods has had four back surgeries, including a spinal fusion procedure in 2017 that forced a 10-month break, many were concerned Woods' latest ailment was serious.

Woods poured cold water on the neck concerns, but admitted his injuries will have to be managed more strictly than ever.

"My neck?" Woods said. "No, it's more my lower back.

"I've got to keep that moving, even though it's fixed. One of the issues with [spinal fusion surgery] is the forces have to go somewhere."

Woods has a history of playing through injuries, including when he won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

He no longer wants to do that at the age of 43.

"I've got to stay fit and loose, and not push it," Woods said.

"Over the years, I pushed through a few [injuries] and won a few tournaments doing that, but I also cost myself a few years out here."

Woods says he's excited to contest the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, now it has reverted to the March date it held until 2006.

He is the only player at TPC Sawgrass this week who has won the event in its March (2001) and former May (2013) dates.

The winner of 80 PGA Tour titles is also consulting putting coach Matt Killen, who works with Justin Thomas, after performing poorly on the greens at the WGC-Mexico.


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