Tiger Woods’ absence from Players Championship further fuels doubt

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Tiger Woods had been expected to play in the Players Championship but now may not be seen until the Masters. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Tiger Woods’s latest comeback has been plunged into doubt after it emerged the 48-year-old will not, as had been expected, feature in next week’s Players Championship. Woods, who had set a 2024 goal of competing once a month, is now unlikely to be seen until the Masters in April.

Woods’s appearance at the Hero World Challenge in November was his eighth since being involved in a car accident in early 2021 and his first since last year’s Masters. He finished 18th in a 20-man field with a level-par aggregate. “Once a month seems reasonable,” he said of his playing prospects for this year. His body has been seriously affected by multiple leg and back surgeries.

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Woods withdrew from the Genesis Invitational in February due to influenza. Eyes automatically turned to Sawgrass and the PGA Tour’s flagship event, where the 15-times major champion would ordinarily continue his Masters buildup. However, he is a surprising omission from the 144-player entry list for Sawgrass that was revealed by the Tour on Friday. No further information has been provided about Woods’s physical status or the precise reasoning behind his Players no-show.

Woods, in the company of the PGA of America’s Seth Waugh, tied 44th at the 18-hole Seminole pro-member event on Monday. A key topic of conversation between the pair, one assumes, was whether Woods is keen to captain the United States in next year’s Ryder Cup. There has been no indication thus far that Woods would like the role, with his attention more likely to be focused on Adare Manor in 2027. Yet if playing is going to prove more problematic than Woods had foreseen, Bethpage and 2025 might become a stronger possibility.

Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, has backed the introduction of reduced field events on the PGA Tour. This week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational features just 69 players, which has raised eyebrows given the $20m prize fund. The maximum allowed to play was 70.

McIlroy, speaking after a second round of 70, shrugged off criticism. “I’m all for making it more cut-throat, more competitive,” said the Northern Irishman. “Probably won’t be very popular for saying this but I’m all for less players, less tour cards and the best of the best.”

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McIlroy’s one-under-par aggregate leaves him six adrift of the halfway lead at Bay Hill. Shane Lowry, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Wyndham Clark and Scottie Scheffler head the field. Harman had reached eight under but dropped a shot at the 18th.

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