ORLANDO, Fla. – Practice rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational are underway, with one notable absence this year.
Tiger Woods tweeted Monday that he had withdrawn from this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, a tournament he's won eight times.
1) Unfortunately due to a neck strain that I’ve had for a few weeks, I'm forced to withdraw from the API. I’ve been receiving treatment, but it hasn't improved enough to play. My lower back is fine, and I have no long-term concerns, and I hope to be ready for The Players.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) March 4, 2019
2) I'd like to send my regrets to the Palmer family and the Orlando fans. Its connection to Arnold makes it one of my favorite tournaments and I'm disappointed to miss it.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) March 4, 2019
Woods tied for fifth last year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and a win would mean the record for wins at a single event. The tournament saw a more than 50 percent increase in ticket sales last year because of Woods' success.
"It's a little disappointing, but we have 10 of the top 20 in the world playing," fan Bill O'Donnell said. "People want to see good golf, they'll see it at Bay Hill. It's not hard to see where [Tiger Woods] is on the golf course, you just got to look for the biggest crowds."
Woods returned to competition in December 2017 after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April of that year.
"We know if he was able to, he would play Mr. Palmer's tournament," tournament director Marci Doyle said. "Unfortunately, because of a neck strain, he had to pull out of this tournament. We look forward to seeing him in 2020 at the event."
Woods, ranked 12th in the world, played a full schedule last year for the first time since 2015.
For some fans, the "Tiger effect" can be overwhelming.
"We love to watch him, but it sometimes means it's more crowded around the course and difficult to navigate," Delaney Nadeau, of New Hampshire, said.
Now, other top-tier golfers will be on display, including Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Ricky Fowler.
"It's always great to see the greatest golfer play, but Phil's here, Ricky is here, a lot of other great golfers here," Keith Spear, of Daytona Beach, said.
The first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational begins Thursday.