“I have been advised to take a few weeks off, rest and undergo treatment,” Woods said in a statement posted on his Web site. “I’ll be ready to go for the British Open, and I’m looking forward to playing at Muirfield” in Scotland, where the next major will be contested in July.
“I would like to extend my regrets to AT&T, our sponsors and the fans in the Washington, D.C., area. The AT&T National means a lot to me and my foundation. It’s especially difficult not defending at my own tournament. It’s going to be a great event, and I look forward to being there to provide my support.”
Woods was not available for further comment, a spokesperson said. He will hold a news conference and participate in the opening ceremonies — which each year honor the military — next Wednesday at Congressional. Still, the strength of the field — both in star power and talent — takes a hit unlike when any other individual pulls out.
“When Tiger’s in the field, it adds a lot of just different dynamics that exist from overall interest, bringing out casual golf fans, or really not even golf fans, just because people see what he’s brought to the sport,” said Greg McLaughlin, the tournament director and president of the Tiger Woods Foundation. “The interest that he brings, certainly that’s unmatched.
“But I would say our ticket sales have been strong. The fans of golf come out because it’s a big event, a big event in the area, and they’ll come out to support it. You probably lose the causal sports fan that might not be a real golf fan that just decides to maybe not come out. Their interest and curiosity is to see Tiger.”
Last year, 48,611 fans came to Congressional to see Woods close out his victory in the final round. In 2009, 43,936 did the same. In 2008, the only other time the event was at Congressional and Woods didn’t play, 29,867 showed up on Sunday to see Anthony Kim win.
Woods’s withdrawal both informs recent evaluations of his performance and would seem to raise questions about how he can fare going forward. McLaughlin, who first knew Woods would be unable to play the tournament on Tuesday, said the injury does not appear to be the kind that could keep the world’s top-ranked player out for long.