ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger Woods was a large part of the conversation on the eve of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. And hes not even playing. Woods is missing Bay Hill for only the second time in his career when the tournament starts Thursday on a course that Palmer said is in the best shape ever. Woods has won eight times, including the last two years, but he called the 84-year-old host on Tuesday to say persistent back pain will keep him from playing. "He didnt tell me how bad his back is. I dont think he knows how bad his back is," Palmer said. "I think hes listening to the doctors. And he mentioned that theyre saying that he needs to give it a bit of a rest and see if he can work it out. He was very nice. And I, of course, have great sympathy for the fact that he tried like hell to come here and play. And I appreciate that and the fact that he called. "I think he wanted to play golf this week," Palmer said. "I think that he needs to take (time) -- whether its this week, next week or the following week -- to get ready for Augusta. Certainly, if I were in that position, Id be doing much the same." Most of the chatter was more about the future with Woods. Will he play at the Masters? Stuck on 14 majors for the last five years, can he match or surpass the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus? And what will be the larger obstacle -- his age (38), his health (legs and back) or the competition (long list)? "I dont think 38 years is the ultimate stopping point for his quest to do what Jack did," Palmer said. "I think it lessens the possibility of that happening. Its going to be tough. Its going to be tough to keep the concentration and the type of the game that is necessary to win majors." Nicklaus won four of his majors after turning 38. Ben Hogan, with battered legs from a car accident, won five majors after turning 38. Palmer, however, believes more than age is at stake for Woods. "These young guys are tough, and theyre strong," Palmer said. "And if they continue to play as well as theyve been playing, its going to be tough for anybody -- whether it be Nicklaus or Tiger or whomever it would be -- to continue to win major championships. And were talking about guys that are playing good and coming on." Palmer actually had a list of players he was talking about. Some of them were young, such as Chris Kirk and Harris English. Others had either won this season (Ryan Moore) or played well recently (Robert Garrigus). "I dont know how many you want me to name," Palmer said. "But really, the strength and the ability of these people is very pleasing to me." Graeme McDowell, a runner-up to Woods two years at Bay Hill, said he can understand what the No. 1 player is going through with injuries. He also believes that competition might be an even larger obstacle than his health for Woods to break Nicklaus record. "Hes a physical player who creates a lot of speed and a lot of power and his body is starting to struggle a little bit, no doubt about it," McDowell said. "But Im sure hell fix it. ... But we all talk about how good the fields are nowadays. Taking Tigers fitness and physicality out of it, winning major championships is getting harder and harder for everyone -- including the best player maybe thats ever lived in Tiger. "Hes got more than just his body to be fighting. Theres a lot of great players in the world now," McDowell said. "Its going to be harder for him to achieve Jacks record. But if anyone can do it, Im sure he can find a way because we all know how good he is." The field at Bay Hill is not as strong as usual, starting with the absence of Woods, the No. 1 player in the world and an eight-time winner of this event. Match Play champion Jason Day (No. 4 in the world) pulled out with recurring pain in his thumb, and Phil Mickelson (No. 5) is not playing this year. Not that it would change the dynamics of what already has been a peculiar season. With 18 tournaments in the books this season, Zach Johnson is the only player to win a PGA Tour event while ranked among the top 10 in the world. The Masters is three weeks away. Is it time for the stars to come out? "Hopefully, this one does," Masters champion Adam Scott said, pointing to himself with a laugh. "But as far as unexpected winners, it seems to me thats happening more and more in golf. There are more and more guys breaking through, putting in a lot of hard work and getting what they deserve. So I think weve seen a bit of a shift in the game over the last couple of years -- a lot less domination by top players." Wholesale Shoes Black Friday Free Shipping . -- Stacy Lewis shot 7-under 65 to lead the LPGA Tour team to the championship of the 3Tour Challenge on Tuesday. China Shoes Black Friday . -- Kyrie Irvings last-minute 3-pointer helped seal another victory for Cleveland -- and the Cavaliers longest winning streak since LeBron James left. https://www.cheapshoesblackfriday.com/. PAUL, Minn. Discount Shoes Black Friday .com) - Many people at Eastern Washington are waiting to see if star quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. Shoes Black Friday Deals 2020 .The long-haired pivot, who joined the Alouettes midway through the CFL season and put up a 9-3 record as a starter, will be listed as the top quarterback in training camp next spring.With a full training camp under his belt, the Alouettes will see if he has what it takes to get them back to the Grey Cup game after a four-year absence. PORTLAND, Ore. -- San Antonio stars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker took the night off Wednesday. No matter. As is usual when the Spurs are without their stars, the rest of the team got the job done. Patty Mills came off the bench to score 29 points, Marco Belinelli hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:34 remaining and San Antonio rallied in the second half to pull out a 111-109 victory over the Trail Blazers. San Antonio has won two of three games this season when Duncan and Parker were both absent from the lineup. Mills helped fill the void with a 24-point second half. The fourth-year guard from Australia came off the bench to hit 13 of 26 shots against the Blazers. Belinelli had 20 points and Manu Ginobili 16 for San Antonio. Mills has been on a hot streak since the All-Star break concluded, scoring 25 and 29 points in the Spurs first two games back. "If it wasnt for him the last couple nights, we would have really struggled," San Antonio forward Danny Green said. "Hes doing what Tony usually does, in taking over in that fourth quarter." Mills explained his recent stretch in humble tones, saying "for me, its just been learning from great guys. Weve got three future Hall of Famers and a great coach, so Ive just sat back and learned." It wasnt just Mills, though. Belinelli hit four 3-pointers, and Tiago Splitter had 15 points and six rebounds in returning to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 6. "I thought the effort was fantastic," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. Portland was without leading scorer and rebounder LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed the game with a groin injury and is expected to be out at least a week. Also sidelined were forward Joel Freeland (knee) and centre Meyers Leonard (ankle). Aside from Duncan and Parker, the Spurs also were without guard Kawhi Leonard (right hand). Damian Lillard scored 31 points, including 15 during the fourth quarter, for Portland. Coming off his first All-Star game appearance, Lillard hit 13 of 21 shots and handed out six assists.dddddddddddd Mo Williams had 19 points and Wesley Matthews 18 for the Blazers. Without Aldridge, Freeland and Leonard, the Blazers had to resort to playing a small lineup. It resulted in erratic play, with stretches when the Blazers offence went missing. "We tried to beat San Antonio at their game and they did it better than us," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "San Antonio is used to playing these games without their guys and they plug guys in and they play well." Trailing 81-79 after three quarters, San Antonio took command when Green hit back-to-back 3-pointers to fuel a 10-0 run at the fourth quarters outset. The Spurs led by as many as 10 points, but the Blazers eventually pulled even at 101-101 on Matthews steal and dunk with 1:52 remaining. On San Antonios next possession, Belinelli hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:34 left to put the Spurs back on top. Portland led by as many as eight points during the first half, and settled for a 52-51 halftime lead. Both teams had big runs during a free-flowing third quarter. Mills finished an 8-2 run with a layup to give San Antonio a 69-61 lead. Portland responded with seven consecutive points, then took a 79-75 lead when Williams scored six consecutive points late in the quarter. NOTES: Portland was the last NBA team to use the same starting lineup this season until Wednesday, when Dorell Wright replaced Aldridge against San Antonio. The Blazers are the first team since the 2010-11 Spurs to start the same lineup during its first 53 games. . Splitter returned to the lineup after missing the past four games with a calf injury. . Blazers forward Victor Claver, who hasnt played since Nov. 15 and has logged just three minutes of playing time this season, made a first-quarter appearance and played seven minutes . San Antonio concludes a nine-game road trip that began Feb. 3 on Friday at Phoenix. . Before Wednesday, San Antonio was 1-9 in its past 10 games at Portland. ' ' '