The 15-time major winner will miss his first two scheduled events in 2021 after revealing he had required “microdiscectomy procedure to remove a pressurised disc fragment”.
The news means that Woods will miss next week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and also the Genesis Invitational, which he hosts, in Los Angeles.
Speaking ahead of his own first appearance of 2021 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, McIlroy said in reply to being asked about Woods having had surgery: “I’ve known for a while. He had it on 23 December. I am obviously pretty close with him.
“In his words, it was a small procedure, so I don’t think it is anything that …obviously any time you are cut into is something you try to avoid as much as you can.
“He was back on his feet the next day and I don’t think we can read too much into it. I think they were just trying to clean a couple of bits up.”McIlroy, who lives close to Woods in Florida, added: “Obviously he won’t be playing for the next couple of months but he should be back for The Masters, if not before that. I think he will be just fine.
“I mean, he won The Masters (for the fifth time in 2019) with four back surgeries, so there’s not much he can’t do.”