Tiger Woods’ comeback lasted three rounds before being interrupted on Friday. One hour before his second-round tee time, Woods withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates, citing back spasms.
Woods opened the tournament on Thursday with disappointing, birdie-free, 5-over 77 that left him clear of just seven players in the field. Despite looking stiff at times and walking with a gimp at others, Woods insisted he was pain-free throughout the round.
“He felt okay coming off the golf course yesterday so he wasn’t in pain,” said Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg on Friday.
The spasms started, Steinberg said, after dinner on Thursday night.
“He tried to work it out last night, didn’t really get it worked out,” Steinberg said. “He had treatment starting pretty early this morning for probably the past three, three and a half hours.”
Steinberg was adamant that the spasms were the cause for the withdrawal, separate from nerve issues Woods experienced that necessitated three back surgeries since March 2014 and forced Woods into a 16-month absence from competitive golf, ending last December at the Hero World Challenge.
“He says it’s not the nerve pain that’s kept him out for so long,” Steinberg said. “He says it’s a back spasm and he just can’t get the spasm to calm down. So that’s where we are.”
Woods took up an aggressive schedule to start 2017, planning to play four times in five weeks. He was cut at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, shooting 76-72 to miss the weekend field by four shots. His 77 on Thursday left him a deep hole to make the cut in Dubai, even before the morning half of the field on Friday faced high winds that ultimately led to a controversial suspension of play. Now the question is, with a week off, if Woods can travel back to Los Angeles to play in the Genesis Open and the scheduled start the following week near his Jupiter, Fla., home at The Honda Classic.
“The short-term prognosis,” Steinberg said, “he hopes he’ll be strong based on the fact that it’s not that nerve pain.”