AKRON, Ohio – While details surrounding Tiger Woods’ withdrawal from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational remain scarce, the player with the best view of Woods’ performance offered some insight after his round.
Bubba Watson played with Woods both Saturday and Sunday, and he was walking just ahead of Woods on No. 9 when Woods informed him that he would be unable to continue.
“Obviously something was bothering him, and you could kind of tell something was going on,” said Watson, who shot a 2-under 68. “He probably wasn’t trying to play a draw on [No.] 9, and when he came over it like that, his back probably tightened up and caused the draw.”
Woods explained after the round that he withdrew because of lower back pain, an injury that stemmed from his second shot on No. 2, when he fell back into a bunker after hitting from an awkward stance in the rough.
“I didn’t see the shot on No. 2. I saw the shot, but didn’t see his reaction and as he fell in the bunker or jumped in the bunker,” Watson said. “If I’d have seen what he did ... then I would definitely have seen pain.”
Woods played his final six holes 4 over, with several wayward shots. Even though Woods remains on the comeback trail after back surgery in March, Watson was surprised by some of the shots from his playing partner.
“He hit some shots that we’re not used to seeing Tiger hit, even when he’s coming back from an injury like this,” he said. “We don’t see shots like that.”
Watson specifically pointed to Woods’ tee shot on the par-3 fifth, which came up 65 yards short of the green.
“You hit one fat like that, it’s going to jam your wrist, and your whole body’s going to be jammed,” he said. “So obviously, you’re going to feel it there. No matter if you have a hurt back or not, you’re going to feel it.
“Even if I’d have hit one fat, I’d have felt it, so obviously that one jarred the body a little bit.”
Woods’ withdrawal also created a bizarre situation since he and Watson were playing behind Russell Henley, who was playing the final round by himself after the pre-round withdrawal of Graham DeLaet. Following his birdie on No. 9, Watson asked if it was possible to join up with Henley for the inward half.
“It was strange,” Watson said. “I called over to (Henley) on 4 and said, ‘You don’t have any friends? You don’t have to be playing a onesome.’ Later I said, ‘Hey, I got no friends either. Let’s join up on 10.’”