Tiger Woods still feels he has a chance to compete for a fifth Masters triumph in two weeks but his back remains an issue, the golfer said on Monday.
The 14-time major champion has not played since withdrawing from last month’s Dubai Desert Classic with ongoing back spasms.
Woods is promoting a new book about his first triumph at Augusta in 1997 and when asked on television’s Good Morning America show if he would compete at the National this year he said, “God, I hope so. I’m trying. I’m trying everything I can do to be able to get back and play. I love that event. It has meant so much to me in my life.”
Woods said while his spirit is willing, his body remains an issue when it comes to being able to train well enough to prepare for the rigors of four rounds at a major event, something he has done only twice since the 2013 PGA Championship.
“I know that the mind is sharp, I just need to get the body willing to do it,” Woods said. “That’s the hard part is getting the prep time in.”
Woods became the first black golfer to win a major and the youngest champion in Masters history at age 21 with the landmark victory in what was then an Augusta National course record. The tale is the subject of his new book: “The 1997 Masters: My Story.”
Woods, 41, has won the Masters four times but could miss the tournament for the third time in four years.
“It has so much history and meaning to me that I’d love to get back,” Woods said.
PRACTICING BUT NO ROUNDS
Woods told USA Today he would attend the Champions Dinner at Augusta National in two weeks at Augusta National even if he does not tee off with the field two days later.
“I do have a chance,” Woods told the newspaper. “I’m working on my game. I just need to get to a point where I feel like I’m good enough and I’m healthy enough to do it.
“I’ve been practicing. I haven’t been playing (rounds)… It’s building, but I still have a little ways to go.”
Woods missed the 2014 Masters with a back injury and missed all of the 2015-16 season following back surgery. He made his comeback last December after a 15-month hiatus at the Hero World Challenge, then missed the cut at Torrey Pines in January before pulling out at Dubai after an opening 77.
Woods, who has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open, has not made the cut in a major since the 2015 Masters, where he finished 17th.
Two weeks ago, Woods said he would be unable to play in last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational “due to ongoing rest and rehabilitation on my back” and said then he had no timetable for his return but treatments were “going well.”
Woods, second on the all-time major wins list to the 18 of Jack Nicklaus, has won 79 career PGA titles, three shy of Sam Snead’s all-time record.