NEWTOWN SQUARE, Penn. – Tiger Woods insists there’s “zero connection” between the neck spasms playing havoc with his golf swing and his Nov. 27 car accident.
Woods said during a news conference Monday that his neck started bothering him two weeks before the Masters, his first competition in five months. He brushed it off as “no big deal” and believed he could play through the pain. That changed on Sunday at The Players Championship, where Woods’ creaky neck locked up. That prevented him from making his usual forceful turn on the ball on even a routine shot, and he was forced to withdraw after six holes.
“I’m at a point now where I just can’t go anymore,” he said.
“I want to practice, I want to play, I want to compete, but this is not allowing me to do the things that I need to do on my golf swing to hit the proper shots. I need to get to where I can do that again.”
Woods said he’s been taking anti-inflammatory drugs, but they have not helped. He plans to have an MRI when he returns to Orlando, Fla.
In November, Woods was briefly hospitalized after he crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and a tree outside his home, resulting in a sore neck and a cut lip.
On Monday, Woods insisted he can deal with the sharp, shooting pain, which he feels in the right side of his neck, but cannot deal with the spasms that affect his ability to turn his head.
“For me not to play all 18 holes, that was as angry and as frustrated as I’ve been in a long time,” Woods said of Sunday’s abbreviated round. It was his first withdrawal from a tournament since the Nissan Open at Riviera in 2006.
Woods said it wasn’t until this weekend that he felt he needed more serious treatment.
“It’s possible one of the reasons I think this thing flared up is because I wasn’t conditioned to it,” he said. “I’d been away from the game for such a long time, then came back and ramped up really quickly in order to try and play the Masters. The body wasn’t quite ready for that.”
After tying for fourth in the Masters, Woods looked lost on the course as he missed the cut at Quail Hollow on April 30 with the highest 36-hole score of his career.
Woods has played little like the golfer who collected his 82nd title worldwide in Australia six months ago, just before his personal life became a national punchline.
“I think it’s just once I’m able to do the work on the range and get comfortable, then all shots are fine,” he said. “But I need to do the work.”
Woods will have to work on his game without longtime swing coach Hank Haney, who stepped aside as his coach Monday night. Haney said in a statement to the Golf Channel that he enjoyed working with Woods but he thinks it’s time for him to step aside as his coach.
“I will always look back upon our past half-dozen years together as my best days in professional golf,” Haney said. “It would be a dream of any coach to have a student like Tiger Woods and for me it has come true. Just so there is no confusion I would like to make it clear that this is my decision.
“I know Tiger Woods will be successful in the future no matter who helps him.”
There had been speculation at last weekend’s The Players Championship that he was about to leave Haney, his swing coach since 2004. But Woods said during the news conference that he was working with Haney on his swing.
For now, Woods’ schedule is “up in the air” and likely will be shaped based on what the MRI reveals.
Woods was noncommittal about playing the U.S. Open on June 17-20.
“I’m trying everything I can to get back as soon as I can,” he said.
Woods was in suburban Philadelphia to promote the AT&T National July 1-4. He is the defending champion in the tournament, which has moved to Newtown Square for two years. He also wants to defend his title at the Memorial Tournament the first weekend in June. If Woods feels healthy and gets good news on his MRI, he expects to compete in both events.
“I am committed,” he said. “Unfortunately I haven’t been able to practice like I want to, spend the hours that I used to to get better. And hopefully I can do that, soon.”