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Tiger Woods steps away from golf, says game needs ‘a lot of work’

Tiger Woods had to withdraw from the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last week, not that his game was going well. (Lenny Ignelzi / AP)

Struggling mightily right now, Tiger Woods will step away from the PGA Tour until his game is up to snuff, he announced Wednesday night on his website.

Woods, who withdrew from a tournament last week when his back acted up and he famously said his glutes would not engage, said this latest physical setback is unrelated to the back surgery he had last spring and offered only that “when I think I’m ready, I’ll be back” as a timetable for his return. Woods stated:

The last two weeks have been very disappointing to me, especially Torrey, because I never want to withdraw. Unfortunately, lately injuries have made that happen too often.
This latest injury is not related to my previous surgery. I am having daily physical therapy and I am feeling better every day.
Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me. My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf. Like I’ve said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I’m ready, I’ll be back. Next week I will practice at Medalist and at home getting ready for the rest of the year. I am committed to getting back to the pinnacle of my game. I’d like to play The Honda Classic — it’s a tournament in my hometown and it’s important to me — but I won’t be there unless my game is tournament-ready. That’s not fair to anyone. I do, however, expect to be playing again very soon.
I want to thank the fans in Phoenix and San Diego. They were amazing. I greatly appreciate everyone’s support.

Woods leaves with a world ranking that, at 62nd, is his worst ever as a PGA Tour professional and he’s showing no signs of getting into the top 50, where he needs to be to qualify for the World Golf Championship. In his announcement, he was sending unclear signals abut just how much work he needs to do physically and mentally. He says he won’t return until he is ready, but adds that he wants to play in the Honda Classic, which starts in just two weeks.

Woods’ game sank to new depths when he withdrew from the Feb. 5 tournament at Torrey Pines, saying he could not engage his glutes after a fog delay. A week earlier in Phoenix, he missed the cut, shooting a horrific 82 that was his worst as a pro in the second round.

Unfortunately for Woods, who turned 39 at the end of December, his appearances of late have been resulting in missed cuts and terrible scores. He has either missed the cut or withdrawn from his past four PGA events, and six of his past eight, dating back to Honda Classic last March. He has been bothered by a string injuries, from knee surgery after his 2008 U.S. Open victory, to an Achilles’ injury to an elbow injury and, finally, back surgery last year.

So now Woods will go off to heal and try, again, to get his golf game on track. Already he is running short on time with the first major, the Masters, beginning April 9. His agent, Mark Steinberg, stressed to ESPN that Woods was not taking a leave of absence. He will concentrate on fixing his game, then perhaps playing in Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill tournament in mid-March. If he can get through four solid rounds, perhaps the Masters will be a possibility.