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Tiger Woods withdraws from Safeway Open

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NAPA, Calif. -- Tiger Woods cited game issues rather than physical concerns Monday for putting his return to competitive golf on hold.

Woods will not compete until at least December after announcing that he has withdrawn from the Safeway Open, where he had just officially committed to play on Friday after suggesting a month ago that he "hoped'' to play this week at Silverado Resort, as well as next month at the Turkish Airlines Open.

It was to be the 14-time major winner's first tournament in more than 14 months after taking time away due to two back procedures in 2015.

"After a lot of soul-searching and honest reflection I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA Tour or compete in Turkey,'' Woods said on his website. "My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.

"When I announced last week I was going to Safeway, I had every intention of playing, or I wouldn't have committed. I spent a week with the U.S. Ryder Cup team [as a vice captain], an honor and experience that inspired me even more to play. I practiced the last several days in California, but after a lot of hours, I knew I wasn't ready to compete against the best golfers in the world.''

Notah Begay, Woods' longtime friend who was with him at the Ryder Cup, said he spoke to Woods on Monday morning.

"This is not at all health-related,'' Begay told USAToday. "He said, 'It's just not there, man.' When a player tells you that, he's just not comfortable with every element of his game.''

Begay said Woods had only started hitting drivers in full six weeks and for the past month "had been trying to cram everything in.'' Begay also noted that Woods lost a week due to his duties at the Ryder Cup, as well as time due to Hurricane Matthew near his home in South Florida.

"His spirits are fine,'' said Begay, a former tour player. "He's just upset with letting down the fans, the sponsors, the tournaments. But with regard to how things are coming along, he's feeling good. It's not a physical issue at all. A player gets down when they are hurt. He's not hurt. His next hurdle will be to play more practice rounds, walk more practice rounds, put in more work."

Woods, a 79-time PGA Tour winner, was taking part in a pro-am event at Pebble Beach on Monday that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. He had planned to be there on Tuesday as well before heading to the Silverado Resort, where he was to play in the pro-am Wednesday morning with NBA star Steph Curry. He was also slated to play the first two rounds of the event with Phil Mickelson and defending championEmiliano Grillo.

Now 786th in the world, Woods announced on Sept. 7 that he "hoped' to play the Safeway as well as next month's Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour. He last played in August of 2015 at the Wyndham Championship, where he tied for 10th prior to undergoing back surgery in September and October of last year.

"This isn't what I wanted to happen, but I will continue to strive to be able to play tournament golf,'' he said. "I'm close, and I won't stop until I get there.''

Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, said his client did not want to resume his career overseas.

"I don't think it's appropriate and Tiger doesn't think it's appropriate for him to have his first tournament back not be part of the PGA Tour,'' Steinberg said. "That decision has nothing to do with health or projecting where his golf game is going to be in three weeks. It's out of respect to the PGA Tour. It didn't feel right, so we decided we should just wait and look at the Hero World Challenge to be his return date.''

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