Tiger Woods has withdrawn from his scheduled return to competitive golf at the Safeway Open after citing his "vulnerable" form heading into his first appearance for 14 months.
The 14-time major champion has not struck a ball in anger since August 2015 after undergoing two bouts of surgery on his back. The American has slumped to 786th in the world rankings as a result of his absence, but was due to resume playing in California this week before competing at the Turkish Airlines Open in November. The 40-year-old has spent the last week practising ahead of his comeback but has quickly come to the realisation his game would not be competitive this week.
"After a lot of soul searching and honest reflection, I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA Tour or compete in Turkey," he said, via a statement on his official website. "My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.
"I practised the last several days in California, but after a lot of hours, I knew I wasn't ready to compete against the best golfers in the world. I will continue to work hard, and plan to play at my foundation's event, the Hero World Challenge, in Albany.
"I would like to apologize and send my regrets to Safeway, the Turkish Airlines Open, the fans in California and Turkey and those that had hoped to watch me compete on TV. This isn't what I wanted to happen, but I will continue to strive to be able to play tournament golf. I'm close, and I won't stop until I get there."
Ticket sold for the PGA Tour event at the Silverado Resort and Spa reached record levels upon confirmation in September that Woods would be resuming his career, with sales reaching 28,000 across the tournament. Refunds will however not be available for supporters despite confirmation of the withdrawal coming just three days before play gets underway.
Woods appeared upwardly mobile for the first time since his second round of back surgery at the Ryder Cup in September, when he worked as one of five vice-captains under skipper Davis Love III as the United States retained the trophy with an emphatic win over Team Europe at Hazeltine. However, the wait to see Woods back in elite competition continues.