Tiger Woods withdraws in 1st round at Torrey Pines with back injury

 

Three things in this world you could always count on: death, taxes and Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines. Scratch that third one.

Woods withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a lower-back injury after hitting his tee shot on the par-3 third hole of the North Course, his 12th of the day. Woods was 2 over at the time. This is the third time he has withdrawn from a tournament in his past eight starts.

“It’s just my glutes are shutting off,” he said. “Then they don’t activate and then, hence, it goes into my lower back.”

Woods said his back began acting up during two fog delays, which pushed his tee time back by 2 hours and 30 minutes. During the wait, Woods chatted briefly with former instructor Sean Foley.

“It’s frustrating that it started shutting down like that," he said. "I was ready to go. I had a good warm-up session the first time around. Then we stood out here and I got cold, and everything started deactivating. It just never loosened back up again, and when we went back out there, it got progressively tighter.”

After driving way right off the 12th hole, Woods bent gingerly to pick up his tee, the first sign that something was amiss. At the 14th hole, fellow competitor Billy Horschel fetched a tee for Woods, who winced and reached for his back on multiple occasions.

For 11 holes, his play was discordant, unrecognizable to those fans who had watched him win eight tournaments here as a professional. In 18 starts at Torrey, Woods had finished outside the top 10 on only two occasions and had never missed the 36-hole cut. (He missed the 54-hole cut last year.)

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Woods drove the ball wildly, missed the majority of greens in regulation and struggled with his chipping. He did chip in for par at the 11th hole, one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dim day. Somehow he managed to be even par after pouring in a 30-foot birdie putt at No. 1. At the next hole, Woods airmailed the green with a 40-yard pitch shot from the rough and fluffed his next halfway. As Woods lined up his bogey putt, caddie Joey LaCava said to Woods, “Dig deep.” Woods missed, made double and wouldn’t finish another hole.

The par 3 third hole plays over a valley. Woods knocked his tee shot 30 feet right of the hole. As Woods began his descent to the green, a spectator said to two friends at his side, “Let’s see how he walks down the hill.”

It was telling of what was about to come. Woods limped behind Fowler and Horschel, using his club like a cane. After Rickie Fowler chipped on, Woods informed LaCava to pick up his coin. Woods shook hands with Fowler, the third competitor in the group, and Horschel as an official radioed for a golf cart. Woods declined to be interviewed by Curt Byrum of Golf Channel. As Woods made his way across the fourth fairway, a fan said, “Feel better, Tiger.”

“Thank you, guys,” Woods said as he bent awkwardly to get into the cart.

Woods answered a handful of questions as LaCava packed his bag. When asked whether he ever considered not playing, Woods simply said, “No.”

Woods missed the cut in his 2015 debut last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He struggled with the chipping yips, a problem more befitting a high-handicap player than one of the game’s all-time greats, during a second-round 82 — his worst score in nearly two decades on Tour — at TPC Scottsdale. Asked at the time about the health of his back, Woods said, “That’s not an issue anymore.”

LEADERBOARD

• A look at Woods’ worst rounds and missed cuts

It appears Woods spoke too soon. He is coming off a year in which he made only seven starts on Tour, missing two cuts and withdrawing from one event. He was a cumulative 26 over in 21 rounds last year. This year certainly has been no better.

Woods, 39, whose 79 victories include 14 major championships — second all-time in both categories — has fallen to No. 56 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He hasn’t won since Aug. 4, 2013, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. That triumph, however, capped a five-victory season that, though lacking a major championship, signaled to many observers that the Tiger Woods of old indeed might be back.

However, injury problems returned early last year for Woods, leading to microdiscectomy surgery March 31. He was out for nearly three months and returned with mostly ineffective results. His start to 2015 has been even worse.

Woods left Torrey Pines on Thursday afternoon in a blue, four-door Porsche. When he might return to competition is uncertain.

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