Jack Nicklaus believes Tiger Woods has “a lot of years” of good golf ahead of him after the world number one announced he will miss the US Masters for the first time in his career following back surgery.
Woods said on Tuesday he had undergone successful microdiscectomy surgery on a pinched nerve after being advised to do so for his "immediate and long-term health".
The 38-year-old was unable to put an exact timescale on his recovery, but stressed he was still intent on surpassing Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles when he returns to action. Woods won the last of his 14 majors in the 2008 US Open, after which he required season-ending knee surgery.
In a statement on his website, Nicklaus wrote: "I am sorry to hear that Tiger will miss the Masters Tournament. I know Tiger has been working very hard to return to form, and as I have said many times, Tiger has a lot of years of good golf ahead of him.
"I hate to see him robbed of some of that time by injury. But we all know he is doing what is in the best interests of his health and future. I wish him well on a speedy recovery."
Woods has been struggling with back problems all season, withdrawing with just five holes of the Honda Classic remaining last month and missing the defence of his Arnold Palmer Invitational title.
In a statement on his official website, four-time Masters champion Woods said: "After attempting to get ready for the Masters and failing to make the necessary progress, I decided, in consultation with my doctors, to have this procedure done.
"I'd like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters. It's a week that's very special to me. It also looks like I'll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.
"I'd also like to thank the fans for their support and concern. It's very kind and greatly appreciated. This is frustrating, but it's something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health."
The statement added that Woods would begin intensive rehabilitation and soft-tissue treatment within a week and could start chipping and putting in three weeks.
"It's tough right now, but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," Woods added. "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 [Snead] and Jack [Nicklaus] reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."
Woods has won 79 PGA Tour titles compared to Snead's 82, the last of which came in the Bridgestone Invitational in August.
Woods has played in the Masters every year since since his debut as an amateur in 1995. The last of his four green jackets was won in 2005, since when he has recorded seven top-six finishes in eight appearances.
Last year he finished fourth after being handed a two-shot penalty for taking an incorrect drop on the 15th hole of his second round.