His website said repeating the motion of a golf swing can cause problems with a pinched nerve, and that the injury could have become worse if he had continued to play. Woods said he hopes to return to golf this summer, though he could not say when. It's possible he could at least start chipping and putting in three weeks.
He will have to wait until the U.S. Open — maybe longer — to resume his quest to match Nicklaus in the majors. Woods won his 14th major at the 2008 U.S. Open on a badly injured left leg that required season-ending surgery two days after his playoff win at Torrey Pines.
He has not won another major since then.
This would have been the 20th straight Masters for Woods, dating to 1995 when he tied for 41st as the U.S. Amateur champion. He missed the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008 after knee surgery, and the U.S. Open and British Open in 2011 to heal more injuries in his left leg.
But he never missed the Masters, even after the scandal in his personal life at the end of 2009. Woods had been out of golf for nearly five months dealing with a car crash into a fire hydrant, revelations of multiple extramarital affairs and 45 days in a Mississippi clinic when he returned to Augusta National under intense scrutiny. He tied for fourth.
Even though he hasn't won the Masters in nine years, he had only finished out of the top 10 one time, in 2012.
Woods has 79 career wins on the PGA Tour, three short of the record held by Sam Snead. He already was off to the worst start of his career. He missed a 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines, where he was the defending champion. He tied for 41st in Dubai, and then withdrew from the Honda Classic and tied for 25th at Doral.
"It's tough right now, but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," Woods said. "There are a couple (of) records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I've said many times, Sam and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."
Associated Press Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner in Chicago contributed to this report.
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