LA JOLLA: An ailing Tiger Woods withdrew from the first round of the PGA tournament at Torrey Pines after 11 holes on Thursday, yet another setback for the 14-time major champion.
Woods, who could be seen grimacing and rubbing his back during the round, was two-over for the day and well off the pace when he spoke to his playing partners on the Torrey Pines North Course and walked gingerly away, eventually being taken off in a golf cart.
In a brief word with reporters, 39-year-old Woods said his lower back got tight during the fog delay that suspended play for more than two hours on Thursday morning.
“I just never loosened back up again,” he said in a brief interview in the parking lot. “And when we went back out it just got progressively worse.”
Woods’ early departure follows his career-worst 82 in the second round last week at Phoenix, where he missed the cut by 12 strokes.
Woods, chasing the record 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus, said in Arizona that he was not injured and just needed more tournament work to try to recover his lost form.
He was no doubt hoping to get that at Torrey Pines, where his eight titles include his most recent major triumph, at the 2008 US Open.
Woods, who has fallen to 56th in the world, needed a good finish this week to climb back into the top 50 and confirm his qualification for the World Golf Championships event at Doral.
However, he was clearly struggling all day.
He opened with a bogey at the 10th and dropped another shot at the par-three 12th. He got back to even par with birdies at 16 and one, but could often be seen rubbing or grabbing his back.
His decision to depart followed a double-bogey six at the par-four second hole, although he teed off and found the green at the par-three third — his 12th — before deciding to call it a day.
Woods said the pain was “different” from the back pain he dealt with early last year, when he opted for surgery on March 31 to ease a pinched nerve and missed the Masters and US Open while recovering.
He made his return in June, missing the cut in the US PGA Tour’s National at Congressional and finishing equal 69th at the British Open — the worst 72-hole major finish of his pro career.
Overall in six PGA Tour events since he returned to competition at the National, Woods has missed three cuts — including at the 2014 PGA Championship — and withdrawn twice.
“It’s frustrating that it started shutting down like that,” Woods said. “I was ready to go. I had a good warmup session the first time around, and I stood out here and got cold and it started deactivating again.”
Woods is next scheduled to play at the Honda Classic from February 26-March 1 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.