TIGER PULLS OUT OF OPEN

Doctors tell Woods to skip Major at Sandwich, but American insists his best is yet to come

FORMER world No1 Tiger Woods insists his best years are still ahead of him despite being forced to withdraw from next week’s Open Championship by niggling knee and Achilles injuries.

Three-time winner Woods, who has plummeted to 17th in the rankings following a disastrous 18 months, said doctors had warned him not to jeopardise his recovery by playing in the Major, being held this year at Sandwich.

The American added that he had rushed back from injury too recklessly in the past, a reference to the Players Championship in May, where he pulled out after nine holes having tweaked his injuries.

“Unfortunately, I’ve been advised that I should not play in the British Open,” Woods said in a statement last night.

“I am only going to come back when I’m 100 per cent ready. I do not want to risk further injury. That’s different for me, but I’m being smarter this time. I’m very disappointed and want to express my regrets to the British Open fans.”

His decision means the wait for a first tournament win since November 2009 – and the infidelity scandal that engulfed him later that year and preceded the break-up of his marriage – goes on even longer.

That period has seen him battle repeated injury setbacks, one of which came in April at the Masters, where Woods sprained medial ligaments in his left knee and strained his left Achilles while hitting a shot from under a tree.

Questions have been raised over whether the 35-year-old will ever add to the haul of 14 Majors he amassed during a spell as arguably the most dominant sportsman on the planet – but Woods refuses to be written off.

“In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have competed at The Players, but it’s a big event, and I wanted to be there to support the tour,” he added.

“I’ve got to learn from what I did there and do it right this time and not come back until I’m ready. I think my best years are still ahead of me, and I’m very confident and optimistic about the future.”

Woods won his first Open title at St Andrews in 2000 and repeated the feat at the same course in 2005, before completing his hat-trick at Royal Liverpool the following year.

He won the most recent of his Majors at the US Open in 2008 but missed the Open at Royal Birkdale later that same year following knee surgery.

Woods is now being tipped to return at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in early August ahead of the US PGA Championship the following week.

US Open winner Rory McIlroy remains the favourite for the Claret Jug, with Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the world’s top two, also shouldering home hopes.

TIGER FEATS | WOODS’ OPEN WINS

2000: Woods, then 24, became the youngest man to win all four Majors when he lifted the Claret Jug for the first time at St Andrews, following an eight-stroke victory

2005: St Andrews proved a happy hunting ground again as Tiger took his Major tally into double figures with a five-shot win over perennial bridesmaid Colin Montgomerie

2006: Twelve months later at Royal Liverpool Woods did it again, this time winning by two shots and immediately breaking down following the death of his father just weeks earlier