Agent: Absolutely expect Tiger Woods back this year

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods' return to competitive golf remains undetermined, but his longtime agent, Mark Steinberg, told ESPN that "I do expect him back on the golf course this year. Absolutely. But there's no timetable.''

Woods waited until Friday night to say that he won't play in the 80th Masters, writing on his website that he is "not physically ready.''

Steinberg emphasized there has been no discussion about a specific tournament to target -- which he viewed as a good thing. In their 19-year association, Steinberg said, Woods always set such goals but is not forcing the issue this time.

"He doesn't want to hit the start-stop button,'' Steinberg said.

Since undergoing his first back surgery on March 31, 2014, Woods has played just 15 worldwide events, with just a single top-10 finish. He missed six cuts and withdrew from two tournaments during that span.

His last tournament was in August at the Wyndham Championship, where he tied for 10th. But just a few weeks later, he underwent a second back surgery, then had a follow-up procedure Oct. 28.

Woods has made rare public appearances since, saying in website posts last month that he had begun chipping and putting and hitting short iron shots. Beyond that, it is unknown, and Steinberg declined to elaborate.

As for skipping the Masters, Steinberg said it was a combination of factors and he's "not 100 percent ready to play golf.''

Woods is expected to arrive at Augusta National on Tuesday in time for the Champions Dinner, after which he will head back to Florida.

"I've been hitting balls and training daily, but I'm not physically ready,'' Woods said on his website. "I've said all along that this time I need to be cautious and do what's best for my long-term health and career. Unfortunately, playing Augusta [this week] wouldn't be the right decision. I'm absolutely making progress, and I'm really happy with how far I've come, but I still have no timetable to return to competitive golf.''

Woods, 40, is missing the Masters for the second time in three years. He has played the tournament 20 times dating to his amateur days and has 11 top-5 finishes, including 7 top-3s and four victories.