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Kuchar unfazed by Woods' Masters absence

Matt Kuchar, the world No.11, believes that the Masters will not suffer in the absence of Tiger Woods next week.

The world No.1 announced yesterday that he would miss the Masters for the first time in his career after under­going surgery on a pinched nerve in his back. It completes an unwanted career grand slam for the 38-year-old, who had previously missed the game's other three major championships because of injury, most recently the US Open and Open Championship in 2011.

"It's the Masters," Kuchar, who was joint eighth at Augusta last year, told a pre-tournament press conference ahead of the Shell Houston Open. "It's still the greatest golf tournament. We experienced a year without him. He is the centre of the PGA Tour sphere. He attracts the most eyeballs, the most attention, but there are a lot of great players out here and I think the Tour held on quite well, stayed pretty healthy, while he was absent.

"Certainly, the Masters will not suffer. It's definitely exciting. I think everyone wants Tiger to be healthy and playing well and in contention. I think most guys dream of taking Tiger down, battling him down the stretch at the Masters. We won't have that chance this year but we'll still have a chance to don a green jacket."

Stewart Cink, the former Open champion, agreed with Kuchar, adding: "It will be a little different without him, but it's still a great ­tournament. We played, back in 2008, a lot of majors in a row without him and they were still great tournaments, and the Masters will be great. But it's kind of sad not to see Tiger over there because it's always exciting to see what he's going to do."

Charles Howell, an Augusta native, added: "It's a shame any time anyone is injured, but especially Tiger. He's such a driving force for golf and he's fun to watch on TV. He's great for our sport and, hopefully, he comes back healthy."

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