Updates from Wednesday, March 5
According to ESPN's Bob Harig, Woods is heading to Doral for this weekend's tournament:
Woods later spoke about his back and recovery (via Will Gray of the Golf Channel, ESPN's SportsCenter and Kyle Porter of CBS Sports):
Porter had more from Woods on the injury and how his body is holding up:
"It felt like I couldn't move...it got to a point where I couldn't twist," said Woods.
"The will to win hasn't changed. It's physically am I able to do it. A bad back is no joke."
Tiger Woods' tough start to the 2014 calendar year continued Sunday, as he withdrew from the 2014 Honda Classic with a back injury after playing his first 13 holes at five over par.
Golf.com's official Twitter account cited a spokesperson for Woods, who confirmed the reason behind the superstar pulling out of the tournament, and NBC Sports provided the news:
Woods later spoke about his decision to withdraw (via Will Gray of the Golf Channel):
Before that news broke, sports columnist Scott Michaux noted how Woods talked to girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and was grabbing his back when he made the turn in five-over 40:
The 14-time major winner opened the tournament with a round of one-over 71 and made the weekend cut on the number, but he followed that up with his best round of the young season with a 65 on Saturday. That put him within striking distance of leader Rory McIlroy, but things quickly unraveled for Woods at the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
After going five over on his first six holes, it was rather clear something wasn't quite right with Woods. He was able to grind around and manage level par from there, but his back evidently couldn't hold up to the physical strain and torque his swing requires.
Woods had back problems in the FedEx Cup playoffs last year, and it has been a nagging issue as his age continues to catch up with him.
This withdrawal will likely draw at least some comparisons to how McIlroy walked off the course mid-round last year, though with Woods' history of health issues, this seems a little more reasonable. PGA Tour Media points out how rare of an occasion this is:
Woods doesn't live too far away from the site of this tournament, which continues to pull an elite field and has experienced a perpetual rise in stature in the PGA Tour. This was only the fourth time Woods had teed it up at PGA National, so it makes at least some sense that he didn't bring his A-game.
The chances of winning this tournament all but went out the window for Woods after the first round as it was, per ESPN Stats & Info:
There was no trademark grit and resolve from Woods this time around to mount a modest charge in his Sunday red, as he looks to be a shell of himself to kick off the new year. A shocking failure to qualify for the 54-hole secondary cut at the Farmers Insurance Open was baffling, as the 38-year-old posted an abysmal round of 79 on the third day.
It should be noted, though, that it didn't officially count as a missed cut, per ESPN's Justin Ray:
The Farmers Insurance Open was an event Woods had won seven previous times at Torrey Pines Golf Club—not including his 2008 U.S. Open triumph, which was the site of his most recent major victory.
There's at least reason for optimism as the tour's Florida swing continues, because Woods has won seven times at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and eight times at Bay Hill in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The former event is less than two weeks from now, and the latter is in March as well. But Woods must perform well to do an adequate amount of competitive preparation for the year's first major at Augusta National.
As Woods said after his round on Thursday at PGA National, though, he may tweak his typical schedule leading up to the Masters. That could especially be true in light of this resurfacing back injury.
"Still looking into that, yeah," said Woods, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig. "Still looking to possibly make some changes going in there."
Even for a man who has reconstructed his entire swing multiple times in his storied career and gone through "slumps" in relation to his high expectations, missing back-to-back cuts—of primary or secondary nature—is unprecedented for him as a professional.
Ray offered a silver lining in the wake of the debacle at Torrey Pines: Woods had shot 77 or worse just twice before on the PGA Tour before March 1. One such instance in 1999 at Pebble Beach (78), and he went on to claim eight victories and the PGA Championship that year. The other came in 2002 at Torrey Pines (77), a season that saw Woods win five tournaments, including both the Masters and the U.S. Open.
Now for the bad news. Woods is not going through any swing changes, isn't nearly as young as he was back then and has posted some serious clunkers as of late—and now he's hurt. This is early-season rust and wear and tear, the likes of which golf spectators have never seen from the living legend.
Plenty of golf lies ahead for Woods to prove himself, but it's critical that he gets back on track soon and gets his back in better shape. Given his history of health problems and inconsistent form this year to date, he could be in danger of losing his No. 1 world ranking if he doesn't make a strong surge soon.