Sports / Golf

Tiger limping on road to Augusta

By AP (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-07 08:22

Nagging injuries still hampering Woods as he prepares for next month's Masters, AP reports from Florida

Tiger limping on road to Augusta
Tiger Woods tees off from the 7th hole during the first round of the WGC - Cadillac Championship golf tournament at TPC Blue Monster at Trump National Doral. [Photo/Agencies]

The last time Tiger Woods quit in the middle of a round because of an injury, he won his next tournament. He then followed that with his highest score ever in the Masters, the ultimate measure of Woods these days.

Now what?

Making predictions about the world's No 1 player is like gauging the wind at Amen Corner. You're bound to get it wrong for three reasons:

Only an athlete knows how badly he is hurt.

Golf is too unpredictable under the best of times.

He's Tiger Woods.

Television analyst Johnny Miller got it right at the start of the year when he was talking about which players might have big years. He stopped short of naming a list of players because of reason No 2. And then he added this nugget:

"It was pretty easy to predict Tiger there for a while," Miller said.

These days, about all anyone can safely predict about Woods is that he'll wear a red shirt on Sunday - assuming he makes it to Sunday.

In two starts on the PGA Tour this year, Woods is measured by letters instead of numbers.

He had an "MDF" at Torrey Pines, which is the tour's acronym for players who miss the 54-hole cut. And he had a "WD" at the Honda Classic when he withdrew after 13 holes in the final round last Sunday at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The question now is how long he will be MIA.

The leaders were finishing up the front nine when attention shifted from the golf course to the PGA National parking lot that suddenly was swarming with police.

About two dozen reporters and photographers were waiting for Woods. He finally showed up in a white passenger van, changed out of his shoes and then was driven off in a black Mercedes-Benz to his home on Jupiter Island.

Just like last time - just like always - only Woods knows the amount of the pain and the degree of the injury.

He said through spokesman Glenn Greenspan that he felt "lower back problems with spasms" as he was warming up Sunday morning.

On the third hole, he hit a tee shot so far to the right that it wound up in a water hazard to the left of the sixth green. And when he played the sixth hole, he pulled his tee shot into the water.

Six holes into the final round, Woods already was five over par for the day and 12 shots out of the lead.

He said he would get treatment every day to "calm it down." As for playing next week at Doral, he said he would wait until Thursday to see how it feels.

But this isn't about whether he can play Doral or Bay Hill two weeks later, or how he will fare at Augusta National next month. The injuries are starting to pile up since he returned from the chaos in his personal life.

Woods had two WDs on his professional record through 2009. One was at Pebble Beach in 1998 when he chose not to return after a seven-month rain delay to finish. The other was in 2006 at Riviera when he made the cut and then withdrew the next morning with the flu.

Now he has four in the last five years.

He left after six holes of the final round at The Players Championship in 2010 because of a bulging disk in his neck. He went into the final round 10 shots out of the lead. A year later, he quit after nine holes and 42 strokes at The Players because of a leg injury. He didn't return for three months.

Woods' didn't finish the final round at Doral in 2012 because of his Achilles tendon. Now he starts out 2014 by having to pull out of another tournament.

That's five straight years when a season has been interrupted by injury. He didn't withdraw last year, though he missed his own AT&T National and a scheduled start at The Greenbrier Classic because of a left elbow strain.

Sunday at the Honda Classic was not his first issue with lower back pain. He said the feelings were the same as they were at The Barclays last summer, when he dropped to his knees after one shot in the final round. He finished out that round in a tie for second, one shot behind Adam Scott.

He didn't finish among the top 10 the rest of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Then again, he went 4-1 and earned the most points at the Presidents Cup. He lost in a playoff to Zach Johnson at his 18-man World Challenge, so how much did the back pain linger?

Only Tiger knows. And he's not telling.

Tiger limping on road to Augusta

Left: Tiger Woods watches a drive during the final round of last week's Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The world No 1 withdrew after 13 holes due to injury. Right: Lindsey Vonn, joined by Woods' children, watches him tee off during the second round. Left: Wilfredo Lee / Associated press ; Right: Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post / Associated Press

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