PRACTICE has begun for the 114th US Open without Tiger Woods, the 14-time major champion still recovering from surgery with no timetable to return and a six-year major win drought.
Woods, trying to pass the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, captured his most recent major crown at the 2008 US Open, when he limped through an 18-hole playoff at Torrey Pines on a broken leg to defeat Rocco Mediate.
A pinched back nerve has kept Woods from playing since the final round at Doral in early March.
He underwent a microdiscectomy on March 31 to end the pain but has been rehabilitating since the surgery and missed the Masters for the first time in his career last April.
"I'm not yet physically able to play competitive golf," Woods said two weeks ago.
"The US Open is very important to me and I know it's going to be a great week.
"Despite missing the first two majors, and several other important tournaments I remain very optimistic about this year and my future."
Woods has won major titles on the courses where the year's two remaining will be played, the British Open next month at Hoylake and the PGA Championship in August at Valhalla.
But there's no guarantee the 38-year-old American will be healthy enough for either.
"I hope to be back sometime this summer but I just don't know when," Woods said.
"There's no date, no timetable. Just taking it day by day and trying to get stronger. I miss being out there. I miss hitting balls and just playing."
This week's event is the sixth major tournament Woods has missed in his career due to injury, including the British and PGA in an eight-month layoff after his 2008 US Open triumph.
Want video tips delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to iseekgolf.com newsletters.