Woods' WD invites only more doubt about his future

By Jason SobelAugust 3, 2014, 7:40 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Like so many times on so many Sunday afternoons before, a security-driven golf cart pulled up to the parking spot in the player lot closest to the Firestone South Course, the one with “TIGER WOODS” etched on a placard attached to a fence. 

Unlike those other occasions, this was not the culmination of a victory tour, the champion being whisked away with a toothy smile across his face.

No, the look on Woods’ face this time was a mixture of pain and worry. He gingerly stepped from the cart and reluctantly placed his left foot on the back bumper of his Cadillac Escalade courtesy car. Noticeably blanching throughout, he untied one shoe, then the other. He carefully slipped into a pair of sneakers and gave a brief interview to a PGA Tour official.

“It happened on the second hole,” he explained.

Anyone who knows his recent history and witnessed Woods attempting to play eight-and-a-half holes before withdrawing from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational understands exactly what “it” is.

Woods underwent microdiscectomy surgery on his lower back just over four months ago. This was his third tournament appearance since, following what was essentially a rehab start at the Quicken Loans National and a 69th-place finish at the Open Championship that was disappointing yet still provided reason for optimism.

“Most of the people I talked to who have had the procedure have no idea how I'm even back here playing,” he proudly stated earlier this week. “They just can't understand that.”

That self-satisfaction was washed away on Sunday.

Timeline: Tiger's injuries throughout the years

Photo gallery: Woods rides off course, out of Firestone

With a mighty lash at his ball buried in the rough just on top of a fairway bunker on the second hole, Woods turned an awkward swing into a painful result. He spun out of the shot, his left foot flailing into the air, then slid back into the bunker, his momentum carrying him out the other side.

Somewhere in this sequence, that surgically repaired back became wrenched once again.

“I just jarred it,” he told the official, “and it's been spasming ever since.”

It’s no secret that the 79-time PGA Tour winner and 14-time major champion is on the back nine of his professional career, but he figuratively moved to the next tee with this latest withdrawal.

Along with the pain comes criticism: Did he come back too soon? Along with the worry comes doubt: Will he ever regain the form that made him such a polarizing star?

Those questions will be batted around long after the next time we watch Woods return to competition, which might not be anytime soon.

Even in the unlikely scenario that he receives a quick fix for the injury and decides to tee it up at Valhalla Golf Club, it’s inconceivable to believe that he could contend for a 15th major title.

Well before the back issue resurfaced, Woods’ opening scores were an ascending 68-71-72 that left him far off the first page of the leaderboard. Following the injury recurrence, his play resembled that of an 18-handicap.

His tee shot on the par-3 fifth hole came up 65 yards short. His recovery shot on the sixth landed next to a beer tent. His greenside bunker shot on the seventh was bladed back into the fairway.

Prior to this round, most discussions about Woods’ game were centered around his push to make the FedEx Cup playoffs and whether he’d be added to the Ryder Cup roster. All of those thoughts are fleeting now, all of that short-term doubt unraveling into big-picture skepticism.

There exist cogent arguments for each side of the debate.

Those who wish to write him off should recall last year’s Barclays, when he suffered back spasms so debilitating that they brought him to his knees. Still, he finished in second place and competed in five more tournaments before the end of the year.

Conversely, those who wish to proclaim this just a minor setback in his road to resurrected dominance should recognize that the 38-year-old hasn’t played an injury-free season since his last major championship victory six years ago.

The only thing for certain is that a career which was once the closest we’ve seen to supremacy in the game’s history is now drowning in ambiguity.

After the injury and the withdrawal and painful untying of his shoes, Woods was asked whether he would still compete in this week’s upcoming PGA Championship.

“I don't know,” he solemnly offered. “Just trying to get out of here.”

He then shuffled into the Escalade’s passenger seat, removed his hat and put on a pair of sunglasses. His caddie, Joe LaCava, backed up, then sped out of the parking lot and toward the nearest airport.

They took with them pain and worry and, most of all, continuing doubt about what comes next.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.