Tiger to skip Bay Hill with stiff back

MIAMI (AFP) – Reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods will skip next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational to rest a stiff back and continue preparations for Augusta National, according to multiple reports yesterday.

ESPN and Golf Digest reported that the 15-time major winner will not compete at Bay Hill, a course where he has captured eight titles.

“He’s not going to play,” Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg told ESPN. “Back still stiff and just not quite ready.”

Woods, 44, felt back stiffness at Riviera two weeks ago, saying it was his new normal after multiple back surgeries. He skipped last week’s WGC Mexico event. His next chance to compete will be in two weeks at the Players Championship, a major tuneup for the year’s first major tournament next month in Augusta.

“My prep has been just like it usually is,” Woods told reporters earlier this week. “It’s what I need to do to get ready for the Masters.”

Last year, Woods withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a neck strain, then played in the Players and the WGC Match Play before going to Augusta National.