AKRON, Ohio – Citing a recurrence of lower-back problems that required surgery three months ago, Tiger Woods withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday.
Woods was 3 over for the day through eight holes and 4 over for the tournament. On the ninth tee, he swung and immediately winced and reached for his lower back. After walking about 150 yards off the tee box, Woods slowed and ultimately waited just short of the fairway before a cart arrived to transport him off the course.
Woods explained that the injury began on the second hole Sunday, when he had an awkward stance on the face of a fairway bunker.
“It happened on the second hole when I hit my second shot, I fell back into the bunker,” Woods told a PGA Tour official. “I just jarred it, and it’s been spasming ever since.”
Woods went on to par the hole, but played his subsequent six holes 4 over.
This was Woods' third PGA Tour start since returning from microdiscectomy surgery on March 31 to alleviate pain from a pinched nerve in his back. He confirmed that he attempted to play through the injury, but the pain became progressively worse.
“It’s just the whole lower back,” he said. “I don’t know what happened.”
This is the latest setback in what has been a disappointing 2014 season for Woods. He tied for 41st at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, then missed the secondary, 54-hole cut in his PGA Tour debut at Torrey Pines. He withdrew because of back pain during the final round of the Honda Classic in March, and while he played the WGC-Cadillac Championship the following week, he was visibly in pain en route to a T-25 finish.
Weeks later, Woods announced that he had undergone surgery. He missed the Masters for the first time as a professional as a result. The injury also kept him out of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, though Woods returned ahead of schedule for the Quicken Loans National in June. He missed the cut at Congressional, then tied for 69th at the Open Championship in his most recent start.
He had carded rounds of 68, 71 and 72 at Firestone prior to Sunday.
Woods is scheduled to compete in this week's PGA Championship, but did not comment whether he would still try to play.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Just trying to get out of here.”
Golf Channel reporter Todd Lewis spoke to Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg Sunday afternoon. Steinberg said Woods flew home to Florida, where he will be evaluated and a decision on the PGA Championship will be made when ready. Woods is not putting a time table on making the decision.
-Jason Sobel and Will Gray contributed.