Tiger Woods faced a decision: either keep trying to play in pain or jeopardize what’s left of his career.

The 14-time major champion picked the option that he believes will prolong his chances to catch Jack Nicklaus and his record of 18 majors, even if it meant not playing in his most cherished event for the first time since he was an amateur in 1995.

Woods announced on his website on Tuesday that he underwent a successful surgical procedure to repair a pinched nerve in his back on Monday and will not play in the Masters next week at the Augusta National Golf Club.

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The target date for his return to the PGA Tour is early summer, which precludes him defending his title in the Players Championship May 8-11 at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course.

Woods said on his site that doctors told him he will need to rest and rehabilitate for several weeks, and at best, he could begin putting and chipping in three weeks. The surgery was performed in Park City, Utah, by neurosurgeon Charles Rich.

“This is frustrating, but it’s something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health,” Woods said on his website, tigerwoods.com.

The report said Woods “could have sustained further damage if he had continued to play ... there should be no long-lasting effects from the surgery, and it should not impact the longevity of his career,” the report went on.

Woods will be 39 in December. He has made only four starts this season, had to withdraw from one of them, the Honda Classic, during the final round, and was unable to defend his title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said in a statement that Woods had kept the club informed.

“Tiger was gracious in keeping us updated of his condition and making us aware of his decision,” Payne said in the statement. “We wholeheartedly offered our best wishes for his immediate and long-term recovery. Tiger will be in our thoughts and will be missed by our patrons and all of us at the Masters Tournament next week. He is one of our most decorated champions and we look forward to his healthy return in 2015 and beyond.”

It would have been Woods’ 20th consecutive start at Augusta. Among his 19 starts were four victories and 13 top-10 finishes. He has never missed a cut in 17 starts there as a professional.

When Woods misses the Players, it will be the third time in five years and the fourth time in seven years he either missed the entire event or withdrew. Woods won his second Players Championship last year, one of five victories that propelled him to player of the year honors.

“Of course, we’re disappointed to hear that Tiger might miss a few upcoming events due to his back injury, but we’re full-steam ahead here at The Players and are planning on the best tournament yet,” Players executive director Matthew Rapp said in a statement. “Fans still have so much to look forward to and experience at The Players 2014, both inside and outside the ropes. We wish Tiger the best as he rests and rehabs his back, and we look forward to welcoming him back to the Tour when he’s ready.”

Woods said on his website that it was difficult to miss a Masters for the first time since he first earned an invitation by winning the 1994 U.S. Amateur.

“I’d like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters,” he said. “It’s a week that’s very special to me.”

Woods expressed hope that the surgery will re-energize his career after an injury-plagued 2013-2014 season. He said he is still gunning for Nicklaus’ major record and the all-time PGA Tour victory record of 82 held by Sam Snead. Woods has 79 victories.

“It’s tough right now, but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future,” Woods said. “There are a couple [of] records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I’ve said many times, Sam and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine.”

Garry Smits: (904) 359-4362