Tiger Woods' tournament ended in disappointing fashion, as he had to withdrawal from play on Sunday after just eight holes.
From the PGA Tour on Twitter:
Apparently, his back issues flared up again, per Cindy Boren of The Washington Post:
He elaborated on those remarks to Brian Wacker of PGATour.com:
'I just jarred it, and it's been spasming ever since,' he said. 'It's just the whole lower back.'
When Woods arrived at his courtesy car he moved gingerly and was unable to bend down to tie his sneakers. He cautiously got in the passenger seat and was driven away by caddie Joe LaCava.
Asked what his status is for next week's PGA Championship, Woods said, 'I don't know. Just trying to get out of here.'
Woods didn't exactly leave on a day when he was on fire. He was three over for the day and four over on the tournament, so even had he remained healthy he probably wasn't going to get himself back in the running. Here's a look at the updated scoreboard:
It wasn't all bad for Woods on the day, though even his best highlight came when he was saving a bogey, via the PGA Tour on Twitter:
Now, the question will be where Woods stands for the rest of the season, according to Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press:
And Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel wonders whether we all should be taking an even longer look than that:
It's a fair point. Woods has really struggled with injuries in the past year and, even when he's been healthy, he hasn't come close to resembling the pre-scandal player that dominated the sport in historic fashion. Could we be witnessing a career that opened with such a bang but is now slowly ending with a whimper?
That's a discussion for another day. For now, the hope will be that Woods might be able to return at some point this season. The PGA Tour is never quite the same without him, whether he's dominant or not.
Woods' descent on the leaderboard at the Bridgestone Invitational continued on Saturday, as he fell 16 shots behind Sergio Garcia when his round was complete. Here is a look at the leaderboard when his day ended, via WorldGolfChampionships.com:
|2014 Bridgestone Invitational Leaderboard - Round 3|
Overall, it wasn't a terrible day for Woods. Just looking at the scorecard, there were a lot of pars. His only major hiccup, interestingly, came on the sixth hole immediately after his lone birdie of the day:
|Tiger Woods Scorecard - Round 3|
The sixth hole was also when you could see signs of Woods unraveling. He hit his drive into some deep rough, then had a brutal second shot, after which the 14-time Grand Slam champion had choice words for a cameraman who was following a little too closely, via Shane Bacon of Yahoo Sports. (Warning: The language in the video is NSFW.)
Driving has been a huge problem for Woods all season, hitting just 56.7 percent of fairways, according to PGATour.com's official stats. ESPN's Trey Wingo summed up the feelings Woods likely has for his No. 1 club:
However, according to the Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker Twitter feed, Woods wasn't as upset with his driver as he was with his short game:
It's a surprise, because Woods hit just two fairways on Saturday, which likely put more pressure on his putter. However, also per the Tiger Tracker, he said after the round that something finally clicked with the driver:
Mike O'Malley of Golf Digest had a great stat about Woods after the third round, highlighting what he's done in nine rounds since returning:
We can interpret those numbers one of two ways. It's either clear that Woods came back too soon and needs more time to work on his game before anyone can reasonably expect him to compete, or this is the kind of player he will be moving forward.
Most fans and analysts will likely go with the first option, but given the physical wear and tear on his 38-year-old body, which includes the back operation this year and a torn ACL six years ago, no one can definitively say that the latter isn't true.
Hopefully, Woods finds a way to come back and play at a high level, because golf is more interesting and fun when he's competing for titles instead of swearing at cameramen. We will find out if the driver issues really are a thing of the past as Woods closes out the event on Sunday.
Tiger Woods entered the second round of the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club within striking distance of the leaders, but he was unable to close the gap.
Woods trudged through an up-and-down round Friday in Akron, Ohio, which has become commonplace for him in recent tournaments. He ultimately shot a one-over 71 on the day, which put him in a tie for 20th place at one under for the tournament and seven shots behind leader Justin Rose when his round reached its conclusion.
Here is how the top of the leaderboard looked when Woods' entered the clubhouse, courtesy of WorldGolfChampionships.com:
|2014 Bridgestone Invitational Leaderboard - Round 2|
As seen on Tiger's scorecard for the day, he struggled mightily to convert birdies, which caused him to drop back a couple spots:
|Tiger Woods Scorecard - Round 2|
Woods' second round began on the back nine, and it initially seemed as though Tiger might make a huge charge up the leaderboard. A beautiful approach shot on the 10th hole allowed him to come through with a birdie, which put him just two shots off the pace, according to the PGA Tour's official Twitter account:
Unfortunately for the 14-time major champion and his fans, things started to unravel on the ensuing few holes.
In fact, Tiger bogeyed two of the next three holes, both of which were par fours. That had plenty to do with the fact that Woods painted himself into a corner with poor tee shots on essentially every hole at the commencement of his round.
As evidenced by this graphic courtesy of NBC Golf Central, Woods simply couldn't figure out how to hit fairways through the first five holes:
Tiger posted pars on each of the final five holes of his opening nine, but there were plenty of missed opportunities throughout. While many of Woods' approach shots were excellent, the other aspects of his game failed him, according to GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel:
For as well as Woods played at times in the first round, he wasn't entirely happy with his game Thursday. Per ESPN.com's Bob Harig, Tiger was frustrated by his inability to string a number of good shots together.
"I got a little ticked out there today because I know what I can do, and I know the shots that I need to hit, and I know I need to place the ball, and I didn't do it a couple times," Woods said. "And I didn't take advantage of some of the iron shots I had in there, too."
That was an issue for Woods in the second round as well, although he seemingly started to heat up later in the day. After a bogey on the second hole dropped him to two over par for the day, Woods managed to get a couple strokes back.
Woods birdied the par-four third, parred the fourth hole and then had his highlight of the day on the par-three fifth.
Tiger missed his tee shot to the left of the green, but it turned out to be beneficial. Woods was able to avoid his putting issues as he chipped in for birdie, according to PGATour.com's Brian Wacker:
Woods then proceeded to par the next three holes before ending the round in less-than-ideal fashion with a disappointing bogey.
The fact that Woods was able to prevent his issues from snowballing is encouraging. He could have easily folded and finished the round on a sour note after bogeying the second hole, but he managed to turn things around and get back in the hunt to some degree, although the closing bogey took some of the air out of the finish.
With that said, Woods certainly has a lot of work to do in order to contend for the win and defend his title. He is several strokes behind the likes of Justin Rose and Marc Leishman, so he will need to post two strong rounds this weekend.
Tiger's biggest issue has clearly been inconsistency, particularly off the tee and on the greens. If he can clean that up and eliminate some of the nightmarish holes moving forward, then he is in position for a solid finish.
Even if he doesn't win, coming through with a top-five or top-10 result would be huge for Woods' confidence with the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup approaching.
So far so, well, wildly unpredictable for Tiger Woods at the 2014 Bridgestone Invitational.
Coming off back-to-back disappointing performances in his comeback from back surgery, Woods at times looked on the precipice of putting it back together—and others seemed like he was nearing another collapse. The former world No. 1 finished his opening round on Thursday with a two-under score of 68, good for a tie for ninth place when he entered the clubhouse.
Woods carded six birdies, two bogeys and a double to sit four strokes behind leader Marc Leishman. The Aussie had eight birdies and only above-par scores as he opened up a one-shot lead over Ryan Moore, Charl Schwartzel and Justin Rose.
|2014 Bridgestone Invitational Leaderboard - Round 1|
The Bridgestone has historically been akin to a northern homecoming for the Florida-born Woods. Firestone ranks among his favorite courses, and he's won this event eight times. In 2013, Woods narrowly missed out on a second-round 59 en route to a seven-stroke lead.
He is the only player to win the event by five or more strokes and has done so on three separate occasions.
"I'm excited to be back," Woods told reporters Wednesday. "I've had some pretty good memories here. I've had some pretty good rounds and certainly some great moments on this property. Any time I come back here, it's always a good, solid feeling and I'm looking forward to this week."
Woods, who underwent a microdiscectomy on his back in March, needed to find a comfort zone after looking nowhere close to peak form since his return late last month. He was cut from the Quicken Loans National tournament he hosts in Ohio and then sputtered after a promising first round at the Open Championship. Woods' 69th-place finish at the Open was the worst of his career in a major championship in which he made the cut.
Nearing his 39th birthday in December, there have been major questions raised about where he stands in golf's new hierarchy. He came into this week 215th in FedEx Cup points, 90 spots away from the 125-golfer initial cutoff to enter the first tournament. United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson has even begun backing off his initial near-guarantee that he'd use a captain's pick on Woods if healthy.
"As I've said about the Ryder Cup and Tiger, if he's playing well and he's healthy, I'll pick him," Watson told reporters at Hoylake. "But then the caveat is if he doesn't get into the FedExCup, what to do then? And that's the question I can't answer right now."
Woods' performance this week could play a huge determining factor in his status. He will need solid finishes at the Bridgestone and next week's PGA Championship to move up enough to ensure entrance into the FedEx Cup field.
Of course, Woods won in a playoff the last time the PGA was hosted at Valhalla in 2000, so these represent perhaps the best possible scenarios.
Thursday's round showed that he'll have to do some considerable retooling on the fly if he hopes to avoid another extended break from the game.
Opening on the front nine, the beginning of his day was as high-variance as anyone in the field. He carded just two pars in his first 10 holes, fluctuating up and down the leaderboard with wild fits of inconsistency. Two bogeys against one birdie in his first four holes put Woods at one over—right in time for him to briefly engender hope with a red-hot stretch.
Starting with an excellent birdie on the par-three fifth, Woods carded three birdies in four holes and looked ready to make a charge at Leishman. But as has been the case throughout his season, the step forward came with two backward. A wayward tee shot on the ninth led to two miserable approach attempts, one drilling a tree branch and then bouncing over the green. He'd chip on the green before missing a bogey and tapping in for the double.
The back nine, thankfully, did not produce as many lows.
Woods' double on the ninth was his last over-par score of the day, as he found a way to turn potentially disastrous holes into pars. Birdies on No. 10 and the par-five 16th allowed him to match his low score of the day at two under, while seven pars kept him hanging near the leaderboard.
|Tiger Woods Scorecard - Round 1|
While he had half the birdies on the back nine as the front, it's fair to say Woods looked much more comfortable as the round progressed. He narrowly missed a long birdie putt on No. 15 and had a few chips from off the green that nearly atoned for some shaky irons.
Accuracy remains Woods' biggest issue. He was among the best drivers in the field at a 322.5-yard average but barely hit over half of his fairways. He managed to scramble and save par enough to turn in a solid round, but these were the same types of compliments most were giving him after a solid Thursday at the Open Championship.
Woods needs to prove he can put it together for an entire tournament. Given his up-and-down first 18 holes, Friday morning becomes critical for assessing where his game and head are at going into the weekend.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.