A new obstacle has been placed in front of Tiger Woods as he attempts to win another major championship. The golfer has recently undergone back surgery, which will force him out of action for an extended period of time.

It was announced Tuesday that Woods underwent a microdiscectomy procedure to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching a nerve. Woods felt discomfort at the 2020 PNC Championship, where he finished in seventh place on Dec. 20.

Woods is expected to miss at the least the first two months of the 2021 season, Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport reports. It’s uncertain if he will be ready for the first major tournament of the year, but sources tell Rapoport that the hope is for Woods to play in the Masters on April 8.

The reported timetable suggests that the earliest Woods might return to the course competitively is the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 4. Following that event, there will be five more PGA Tour events before the 2021 Masters.

Woods’ injury history raises questions about when he might play again. This marks the golfer’s fifth back surgery since 2014. Injuries limited Woods to competing in just four total events in 2016 and 2017.

Rory McIlroy, one of the favorites to win this year’s Masters, fully expects to see Woods at Augusta National Golf Club.

“Obviously he won’t be playing for the next couple of months,” McIlroy told reporters at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, “but he should be back for the Masters, if not before that. I think he’ll be just fine.”  

According to McIlroy, Woods underwent surgery on Dec. 23 and was “back on his feet the next day.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Masters was postponed by seven months and played in November. Woods tied for 38th place.

Woods won the 2019 Masters and his fifth green jacket in the most improbable victory of his career. It was Woods’ 15th major championship and his first in 11 years. He is still chasing Jack Nicklaus, who holds the record with 18 major championships.

The ZOZO Championship in October 2019 was the site of Woods’ last victory. It tied him for first all-time with 82 PGA Tour wins.

Tiger Woods Tiger Woods won his first PGA Tour title in five years at the 2018 Tour Championships. In this picture, Woods of the United States poses with the trophy after winning the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, Sept. 23, 2018. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images