Tiger Woods pulls out of Arnold Palmer Invitational with neck strain, hopes to play The Players

Tiger Woods will miss the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational with a neck strain, he announced on Monday. Woods is an eight-time champion of this event at Bay Hill, but he won't get a crack at a ninth victory this time around.

Woods said he's had the strain for a few weeks (he played in the WGC-Mexico Championship two weeks ago, for what it's worth). He also noted that his lower back is fine and that he hopes to play in The Players Championship next week.

This withdrawal is unexpected and the first injury blip we've seen from Woods since he returned to regularly playing the PGA Tour at the beginning of 2018. He had previously played 19 events worldwide in 2018 after playing just 24 total in the four years before that combined. He'd played three in 2019 and finished T20 at the Farmers Insurance Open, T15 at the Genesis Open and T10 at the WGC-Mexico Championship to start the year.

This is his first WD since the Dubai Desert Classic in 2017.

There are a lot of questions here -- most best saved for another day -- but it is worth wondering why Woods played at Riviera and Mexico if he had the strain. Maybe he actually strained his neck at one of those tournaments, but nothing about his play or demeanor at either tournament suggested that he was anything but healthy. 

He apparently labored over which events to play even as he started his four-events-in-five-weeks swing at Riviera. It was there that Woods announced he'd added Mexico eight days before it started. He removed the Honda Classic from his schedule the day he teed off in Mexico and added the API and the Players. He shot rounds of 71-66-70-69 in Mexico en route to that T10 finish and hit shots like this that didn't exactly scream, "My neck is hurting!"

In fact Woods's health hasn't really been a huge question mark since he restarted (again) at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open following his fourth back surgery. That's gotten maybe a little bit lost because of how long we talked about his injuries, but the reprieve was a nice one.

It is honestly shocking that he's missing Arnold Palmer's tournament at Bay Hill (of all places), but I don't necessarily think there are any alarms to sound. That could change if he misses TPC Sawgrass next week. Of course the bigger picture (and story) includes Augusta National, which starts five weeks from this Thursday. Woods has only played in two of the last five Masters and didn't finish in the top 10 in either one of them. 

The bummer in all of this is that it felt like we had moved past the Woods health questions. We were asking about his strokes gained putting, his schedule and his ability to keep big scores off the card. We weren't talking about his spine angle and his availability. All of that may have changed with one tweet on Monday from the biggest star this sport has ever seen.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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