The withdrawal was strange because Woods did not show any indication that he was in discomfort until he hit a 315-yard drive on the 9th hole. Prior to that, he executed several amateurish shots from the 5th through 8th holes. But he said in a statement that he hurt his back, which was surgically repaired in April, on a shot out of an awkward lie on No. 2.
“It happened on the second hole when I hit my second shot, I fell back into the bunker,” Woods said. “I just jarred it, and it’s been spasming ever since.”
The stance outside of the bunker allowed him to essentially swing off his right leg — the ball too close to the bunker to take a regular stance. He fell back into the steep bunker and then ran to the bottom, and while he didn’t show much discomfort at the time, his caddie, Joe LaCava, said Woods was hurting the rest of the way.
“He did a good job of masking it,” LaCava said.
Woods hit several poor shots at the fifth, sixth and seventh holes, playing them in 3 over. He parred the 8th, then hit a 315-yard drive at the ninth but could barely bend over to pick up his tee. He then summoned a golf cart and had difficulty sitting in it.
Woods had surgery on March 31 to alleviate a pinched nerve in his back following just four tournaments in 2014. He withdrew from the Honda Classic during the final round and then played the WGC-Cadillac Championship the next week, shooting a third-round 66 but finding himself in distress during a final-round 78.
According to Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, Woods is “back in Florida, [for] evaluation and then treatment.”
Playing partner Bubba Watson didn’t see Woods hit his shot on the second hole, but knew something was amiss as he played poorly over the rest of the front nine.
“He hit some shots that we’re not used to seeing Tiger hit, even when he’s coming back from an injury like this,” Watson said. “We don’t see shots like that.
“So obviously, something was bothering him, and so you could kind of tell something was going on, and then when he hit the shot [on the ninth hole], hit the draw, he probably wasn’t trying to play a draw on 9, and when he came over it like that, his back probably tightened up and caused the draw.
“Again, like I told him when I shook his hand, I said, ‘I’m praying for you. Hope everything turns out good. Hope to see you next week.'”
In several interviews since the surgery, Woods said that the pain he felt in his back prior to the surgery left him wondering about his future in golf.