Tiger Woods faces a race against time to be fit for his Masters title defence after opting out of next week's The Players Championship.

The 15-time major winner has not played on the PGA Tour since he finished a lowly 68th - last of all players who made the cut - at the Genesis Open three weeks ago.

He elected to skip the WGC-Mexico Championship and this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, due to a stiff back.

And the back remains an issue for 44-year-old Woods, who will be determined to line up for the year's first major at Augusta, with the Masters getting under way on April 9.

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The Players Championship, which runs from March 12-15 at Sawgrass, has come too soon, however.

His agent, Mark Steinberg, told ESPN : "Back just not ready. Not concerning long term, just not ready."

Woods has gone through four back operations to sustain one of sport's great careers, the procedures allowing him last year to end an 11-year title drought at the majors with a stunning victory.

A subsequent success at the Zozo Championship in October took Woods to 82 wins on the PGA Tour, tying Sam Snead for the all-time record.