Saturday, December 20, 2014

Will Tiger sit out due to sore back

AKRON, Ohio - Tiger Woods was at Firestone, and the scene looked all too familiar.

Except he wasn't hoisting a trophy.

He could barely bend over to pick up his tee.

Right when Woods thought he was making small progress toward his return from back surgery, he suffered a scary setback Sunday when he was stricken with more back pain and withdrew after eight holes from the Bridgestone Invitational.

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    Yesterday, Woods' caddie Joe LaCava was at Valhalla charting the course in Louisville, Ky., that will host this week's PGA Championship.

    "I'm optimistic," LaCava said. "I'm hoping he plays. So I'm just doing whatever work I would normally do."

    Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg at Excel Sports Management, said in an email yesterday that it was too early for doctors to decide whether his client could, or even should, try to play in the major.

    How bad was it? As Woods stood next to his car on Sunday, he struggled to even take off his golf shoes before his caddie drove him away into an uncertain future.

    The lasting images of Woods at Firestone were not of him winning, like he did last year for the eighth time. They were of Woods wincing, hobbling and twitching.

    In his third tournament since returning from surgery on March 31, this had the look of a serious setback.

    Woods injured himself playing a shot from edge of a bunker on the par-5 second hole. With all weight on his right leg, he took an awkward slash at the ball, fell back toward the sand and landed with a thud, and kept jogging out of the bunker from sheer momentum of the steep drop.

    "I just jarred it, and it's been spasming ever since," Woods told a PGA Tour official before leaving.

    Woods kept playing, hitting a number of shockingly bad shots. He hit one into the water from the fairway on No. 3, coming up some 30 yards short of the flag. And on the par-3 fifth hole, his tee shot was 65 yards short of the hole. From a bunker left of the seventh green, he blasted out and back into the fairway and made double bogey.

    He grimaced at impact when he hit a 315-yard drive into the left rough on No. 9. Woods slowly stooped over with his right hand on his leg, reached toward his back and slowly bent down to remove the tee from the ground. Moments later, he stepped into a cart and headed for the parking lot.

    "It's just the whole lower back," Woods said. "I don't know what happened."

    Masters champion Bubba Watson said he didn't see Woods hit the shot that hurt him on No. 2, though he could tell as the round went on that something wasn't right.

    "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. "So obviously, something was bothering him . . . 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.' "

    With the pain he showed leaving the course, it would seem unlikely that Woods plays this week.

    If Woods doesn't, his season would be over. He would have to win the PGA to be eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

    Associated Press
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