For the third time in the past six years, the U.S. Open will go on without three-time champion Tiger Woods.
Woods said on his website Tuesday that he is not ready for tournament competition and will skip the U.S. Open next week at Oakmont, along with his Quicken Loans National the following week at Congressional.
“While I continue to work hard on getting healthy, I am not physically ready to play in this year’s U.S. Open and the Quicken Loans National,” he said. “I am making progress, but I’m not yet ready for tournament competition.”
Woods first missed the U.S. Open in 2011 when he was recovering from leg injuries. He missed in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2 while recovering from his first back surgery a week before the Masters that year.
He has not played since a tie for 10th in the Wyndham Championship in August. Woods had two more surgeries on his back after that, in September and October.
Meanwhile, his absence fueled speculation about when he might return, even though Woods repeatedly has said he does not know. Woods played five holes when he opened his golf course in Houston, and also was seen swinging a club at a junior clinic in South Carolina and at his media day at Congressional – three swings from 100 yards to the 10th green, all of them in the water.
Jack Nicklaus said last week at the Memorial he expects Woods to return.
“I think Tiger would have liked to have played this week,” Nicklaus said. “He’s just not ready.”
Since Woods was exempt from having to qualify because he won the 2008 U.S. Open, his spot will be filled by an alternate from the 12 sectional qualify sites, though it was not clear which one. The USGA compiles an alternate list that is based on how many spots each qualifying site was allocated and the strength of each field in determining the list.
When qualifying ended on Tuesday, and with Woods saying he will not play, 149 of the 156-man field for Oakmont was set.
The USGA set aside six spots for any players who crack the top 60 in the world ranking after this week. One of them will be William McGirt, who now is No. 44 in the world after winning the Memorial. If fewer than five more players get into the top 60, the extra spots also go to the main alternate list.
But if a player who qualified has to withdraw, his spot is taken by the alternate from his qualifying site.
Meanwhile, speculation on when or if Woods returns this year will resume after two weeks. The Greenbrier Classic, which he has played twice in the last four years when not dealing with injuries, is July 7-10. That’s one week before the British Open at Royal Troon.
The PGA Championship is two weeks after Troon, followed by the Travelers Championship, the John Deere Classic and the Wyndham Champion. Woods has never played the Travelers Championship and has not played at John Deere since he was a 20-year-old rookie.
After that, he would not be eligible for any PGA Tour event for the next six weeks during the FedEx Cup and Ryder Cup.