Tiger Woods had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday to repair cartilage damage, his second operation in five years on the same knee. He is expected to miss at least a month while he recovers.
The surgery, announced on his website, came two days after Woods finished three shots behind Trevor Immelman in the Masters. He most likely will miss The Players Championship, but should return in time to play the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on June 12.
"I made the decision to deal with the pain and schedule the surgery for after the Masters," Woods said. "The upside is that I have been through this process before and know how to handle it. I look forward to working through the rehabilitation process and getting back to action as quickly as I can."
The surgery was performed in Park City, Utah, by Thomas Rosenberg, who also operated on Woods' left knee in December 2002. Woods also had surgery in 1994 on his left knee to remove a benign tumour.
Swing coach Hank Haney told the AP in phone interview he knew Woods' knee was bothering him, but was not aware of the surgery until Woods called him.
"He's been having a lot of trouble," Haney said. "He doesn't talk about stuff like that. He doesn't want to use excuses, you know? I don't think it affected his play. It affected his practice a little bit. He hit 14 greens in regulation on Sunday. Hard to say it was the knee."
Woods gave no indication his knee was bothering him the first three months of the season, when he won his first four tournaments to extend a winning streak that dated to September.
"Tiger has been experiencing pain in his knee since the middle of last year, and when he had it looked at by his doctors, arthroscopic surgery was recommended," said Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at IMG. "Tiger has played through the pain in the past, but knew it would be better for him to have the procedure done as early as possible."
Steinberg said the surgery repaired cartilage damage. The 2002 surgery drained fluid from around the anterior cruciate ligament and removed a benign cyst.
Woods won the Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in consecutive weeks in August, the latter his 13th career major. After tying for second at the Deutsche Bank Championship to Phil Mickelson, he won the final two events to capture the FedEx Cup, won his unofficial Target World Challenge in December, and won his first four events until tying for fifth at Doral last month.
During the final two events of the PGA Tour season - the BMW Championship in Chicago and the Tour Championship - Woods occasionally would press his foot against a cooler on the tee box and stretch his knee.
He also stumbled behind the eighth green at Southern Hills during the final round of the PGA Championship, right after he chipped in for birdie and was backing up to throw a fist pump.
Otherwise, there were no other outward signs he was hurting.
"He's been cautious with it working out," Haney said. "He just needed to go in there and clean it out."
The recovery is expected to be four to six weeks, meaning Woods will not be able to defend his title May 1 in the Wachovia Championship. He likely will miss The Players Championship, one of three non-majors he has never missed since turning pro.
"Of course, we're disappointed when Tiger is unable to compete in a PGA Tour event," commissioner Tim Finchem said on the tour's Web site. "There is really never a good time for an athlete - especially one of Tiger's calibre - to take weeks off from competition during the season. But his health concerns have to come first."
Woods missed two months the last time he had surgery, but most of that was around the holiday and he only missed one tournament. This will be the second time in two years that he has sat out more than a month between the Masters and the U.S. Open. He missed nine weeks when his father died of cancer in 2006, returned to the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and missed the cut.
Assuming the recovery goes as planned, Woods probably will return at the Memorial two weeks before the U.S. Open. Despite his runner-up finish at the Masters, he will be a heavy favourite at the second major. Woods has won six times at Torrey Pines, including the last four years.
The last time Woods had knee surgery, he won three of his first four tournaments, starting with the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines.
"This is something he's already used to," Haney said. "He deals with stuff incredibly, like you would expect him to."