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Tiger Woods ‘on track’ for the Masters despite recent neck injury

Tiger Woods has competed in three tournaments so far this season

TIGER Woods says he expects to play at the Masters in April despite withdrawing from last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational with a neck strain.

Woods, who is set to play this week’s Players Championship at Sawgrass, says the neck problem is linked to his spinal fusion surgery in April 2017 and is an issue he has to “manage”.

“It’s not painful now,” said Woods.

The 43-year-old is aiming for his 15th major title at Augusta, when the Masters starts on 11 April.

“It was getting to the point where it was affecting my set-up, my backswing, it was just gradually getting worse and that’s just because my lower back is fused,” Woods added.

“It’s about trying to manage what I have. I’m 43 with four back surgeries so let’s manage what I have and understand that I’m going to have good weeks and bad weeks.”

The American is ranked 11th in the world, having recovered from being number 1,199 after spinal fusion surgery – the latest of multiple operations.

Woods won his 80th PGA title, and his first for five years, when sealing the season-ending Tour Championship in September 2018.

He has completed three tournaments in 2019, finishing 20th (Farmers Insurance Open), 15th (Genesis Open) and 10th (WGC-Mexico Championship).

The former world number one said: “I’ve played three tournaments so far and that’s about right. I’m right there heading to where I need to be.

“I think everything is headed on track towards April.

“My finishes are getting a little bit better, I’ve gotten more consistent.

“I have to stay fit and it’s about managing it the best I can and not push it.”

Francesco Molinari won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, finishing two shots clear of England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick.

Woods had won the tournament on eight previous occasions. –