ORLANDO, Fla. — The strongest field of the year at The Players Championship will be without the biggest draw in golf.

Tiger Woods isn’t playing.

Woods will miss The Players Championship for the first time when not recovering from any of his nine surgeries. His agent, Mark Steinberg at Excel Sports Management, said in a text, “Back just not ready. Not long term concern.”

Woods has played only two times this year, a tie for ninth at Torrey Pines and a last-place finish at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, where he serves as tournament host. Woods shot 76-77 on the weekend at Riviera in the Pacific chill and said his back was a little stiff.

He decided at the last minute not to play the World Golf Championships event in Mexico. He didn’t play the Honda Classic for the second straight year, and then he chose to skip this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he has won a record eight times.

The Players was seen as a likely return, except that Woods isn’t ready.

Woods later tweeted that it wasn’t an easy decision.

“I have to listen to my body and properly rest when needed,” Woods said. “My back is simply just not ready for play next week. I’m sad to miss one of the best events of the season, OUR Championship.”

Woods, 44, has been saying all year that he plans to play fewer events, mainly so he can stay in golf longer.

He is a two-time winner on the TPC Sawgrass, most recently in 2013. Woods had the first of four back operations the following year and was at The Players only once over the next four years, a tie for 69th in 2015. He ended that season with two more back surgeries.

Before that, Woods missed The Players in 2008 when it was held in May. He had arthroscopic knee surgery after the Masters that year and didn’t play again until the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which he won despite shredded ligaments in his left knee and a double stress fracture in his leg.

That limits the amount of golf Woods will play leading into his title defense at the Masters, one of the biggest moments in sports a year ago when he rallied to win a fifth green jacket and his first major in 11 years.

Next on the schedule after The Players is the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, where Woods tied for second two years ago. It was his first appearance at the Tampa Bay event, and it attracted record crowds.

After that is the Dell Match Play in Austin, Texas, where last year Woods reached the quarterfinals. It turned out to be a pivotal week in his preparations for the Masters. That’s followed by the Valero Open in San Antonio, although Woods has never played the week before the Masters.

Tyrrell Hatton’s tidy short game was strong enough to carry him into a share of the lead with Sung Kang going into the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Hatton shot after a 3-under 69 to move to 7-under 137, while Kang birdied four of his last seven holes for a 68.

Matt Every, a two-time champion of this event and the first-round leader after a 65, missed the cut by one stroke after shooting an 83. He’s the first player since Camilo Villegas in the 2013 Honda Classic to go from the first-round lead to a missed cut.

EUROPEAN TOUR: The tour lost another tournament on its schedule – next week’s Magical Kenya Open – because of the coronavirus, with Kenya’s government suspending all international meetings and conferences until a further review in a month.

Tournaments in Malaysia and China scheduled for April were already postponed.

Jorge Campillo and Andy Sullivan each shot 5-under 66 for the second straight day and were tied for the lead at the Qatar Masters.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Monday qualifier David Morland IV shot a 10-under 61 in the opening round at Newport Beach Country Club in California to take a two-stroke lead in the Hoag Classic.

Morland had five birdies on each nine, closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th. He was a stroke off the course record set by Tom Purtzer in 2004 and matched by Nick Price in 2011 and Duffy Waldorf in 2015.

He qualified for the event Monday in a fire-shortened round at Goose Creek in Jurupa Valley, with ties broken by matching scorecards.

“It’s the craziest thing,” Morland said. “I’ve got video. We were on the 18th hole, I think I was 3 under for the day, and the chopper was picking up water right in front of us and dropping it on the fire. The flames looked about 20 to 30 feet and they said you’ve got to evacuate the property. So we were sending our scorecards in by picture because they wouldn’t let us back on the property.”

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Scott McCarron and Ken Duke were tied for second place.

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