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No jacket required as Woods goes under knife

It's another grand slam for Tiger Woods .

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking a putt on the first play-off hole to win the 2005 Masters. Picture: Getty Images

. . just not the one he would have wanted. Having captured all four of golf's major championships during an all-conquering career, his announcement last night that he has withdrawn from next week's Masters - he has undergone back surgery - means the hirpling, hobbling world No. 1 will have now missed all four major championships as a professional.

"After attempting to get ready for the Masters, and failing to make the necessary progress, I decided, in consultation with my doctors, to have this procedure done," said Woods, who was forced to sit out the Open and the US PGA Championship of 2008 and the US Open and Open of 2011.

"I'd like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters. It's a week that's very special to me. It also looks like I'll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.

"I'd also like to thank the fans for their support and concern. It's very kind and greatly appreciated. This is frustrating, but it's something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health."

Listen carefully and you can just about hear the creaking and groaning of golf's big hitters. Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Justin Rose . . . they are all members of the global game's band of walking wounded at the moment but Woods is the first to succumb to the ravages of the myriad aches and pains that have been visited on those in the upper echelons of the world order. It's hardly a surprise, of course.

The 38-year-old, who had played in every Masters since 1995 and had claimed four green jackets, has had more ailments than the Complete Guide to Family Health in recent years and had been complaining of back spasms, and subsequently withdrawing from events, since last autumn. From the knee to the Achilles, the neck to the elbow, the stresses and strains of a lifetime spent battering balls and relentlessly pursuing a record-busting major target continue to take a heavy toll.

The back, though, is the one dreaded niggle that all golfers fear. It affects the downswing, it hinders the follow through and it plays havoc with the mind. Oh, and it's bloomin' sore too.

"You do one thing over and over and over again and things are going to give out," noted Rose, the reigning US Open champion who has been battling with a bout of tendinitis of late. "I'm 33, coming up 34 this year, and there are a lot of miles in the vehicle. I've been playing golf every day since I was five years old."

There are many in the same boat. The surgeon's knife has already been out for Woods but the knives of the doom mongers are being sharpened again. It's been six years since Woods last won the last of his 14 majors and even that 2008 US Open was achieved with a shattered knee. Jack Nicklaus' haul of 18 major titles looks even more secure now.

The evolution of golf into a sport of flat-bellied, rigidly-toned athleticism has happened during the Woods era and no one pumped more iron or pounded more treadmills than Tiger. His were rigorous training regimes that would have made a Marine wheeze forlornly with puff-cheeked resignation. It was this drive and power that took him to the giddy heights but this same desire to push himself to the limits has come at a hefty price.

Nicklaus managed to string together a remarkable streak of 154 consecutive majors for which he was eligible. That run began as a 17-year-old in the 1957 US Open and ended as a 58-year-old grandfather in the 1998 US Open. His was a career of sublime man-management, personally, professionally and physically, and the Golden Bear was still in fine fettle as he clambered up his 40s, although he had taken more of a backseat from constant competition.

His final major victory came at the age of 46 in the 1986 Masters. In comparison to the grand edifice that was Nicklaus, Woods' increasingly vulnerable frame looks more like one of those shoogly houses you see perched on the edge of a crumbling, eroding cliff.

When asked if Woods would surpass the major record, Nicklaus has always responded "if he stays healthy".

The prognosis doesn't look good.

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