JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA // Tiger Woods is out of the British Open — and soon he will be out of the world's top 20 as well.
Eight weeks since he last played competitively — and then only for nine painful and miserable holes — Woods admitted defeat yesterday in his attempt to recover fitness in time for Royal St George's.
Now he is taking more time off to try to let his injured knee and Achilles tendon heal fully. Injured at the Masters a month earlier, the 35-year-old limped through the Sawgrass front nine in 42 shots before withdrawing.
"Unfortunately, I've been advised that I should not play in the British Open," Woods said in a statement on his website. "As I stated at the AT&T National, I am only going to come back when I'm 100 per cent ready. I do not want to risk further injury."
"That's different for me, but I'm being smarter this time. I'm very disappointed and want to express my regrets to the British Open fans.
"In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have competed at the Players, but it's a big event and I wanted to be there to support the Tour.
Having already fallen this season from second in the world to 17th, the decline and fall of the 14-time major champion will continue in his absence.
Even though they are not playing this week, the Australian Adam Scott and Swede Robert Karlsson are certain to go past Woods on the rankings.
And more could follow either at Castle Stuart near Inverness, where the Barclays Scottish Open starts tomorrow, or at the John Deere Classic in America.
Woods has been told he does not need further surgery on a knee that has already been operated on four times, but he is not prepared to suffer a repeat of what happened at the Players Championship in mid-May.
"I've got to learn from what I did there and do it right this time and not come back until I'm ready," he said.
"I think my best years are still ahead of me and I'm very confident and optimistic about the future."
Woods personally contacted Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Club, to explain his decision.
"I know how disappointed Tiger is not to be able to play in the Open this year," said Dawson.
"Naturally, we are sorry that a player of his calibre isn't able to join us at Royal St George's, but we wish him well in his recovery and hope to see him back soon, competing in front of the fans that love to see him play the game."
He will be replaced by fellow American Jason Dufner, Australian Brendan Jones having turned down the chance to play because his wife is expecting.
"It's unfortunate for the game of golf and it's more unfortunate for him," the three-time major champion Padraig Harrington said.
"He still is the name we would look out for the most. It's not that we want him to turn up and win, but it would be nice to have him there and bring the buzz he does. Let's just hope it's not that bad - it's a long time for that injury - and that he fully recovers."
Woods tied for fourth in the 2003 British Open at Royal St George's, where he started with a two-shot penalty when he could not find his opening tee shot in the rough. He wound up two shots behind Ben Curtis.
Woods is also is No 116 in the FedEx Cup standings on the PGA Tour, with the top 125 qualify for the play-offs. If he does not return for the PGA Championship, he will not be eligible for any PGA Tour events until October.
Asked last week if he would be surprised he did not play another tournament the rest of the year, Woods said: "I'd be very surprised, because I'm progressing."