DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Tiger Woods withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Friday just an hour before he was scheduled to begin his second round. Woods agent Mark Steinberg said it was a lower back spasm that started late Thursday after dinner that caused Woods to take the day off.
Woods opened with a 5-over 77 on Thursday and labored for much of the day in mostly windless, perfect conditions at Emirates Golf Club. Yet, afterward, he proclaimed, “No, I wasn’t in pain at all. I was just trying to hit shots and I wasn’t doing a very good job.”
Said Steinberg: “Tried to work it out last night, didn’t really get it worked out. Had treatment starting pretty early this morning.
“He can move around, he can’t make a full rotation on the swing.”
The opening shot on Thursday was a driver flared well left on the par-5 10th hole, his first of the day. It ended with a bogey. Two holes later Woods made another bogey and was quickly 2 over on a day where Sergio Garcia shot 65 in the group ahead.
Woods struggled to find speed on the putting greens, plunked a ball in the water from 100 yards out on the easy par-5 18th hole and only hit 11 of 18 greens on the round. Although he said that he felt well it appeared like he was struggling most of the day, even to do something as simple as pick the ball out of the hole.
Prior to the start of the event, Woods said his new swing was designed to "play away from pain."
"Whether my swing looks classical, rhythmical or it may look unorthodox, I don't care," he said. "As long as I don't feel that nerve pain. Anyone in here who has ever had nerve pain in their back or anywhere in their spine, it's like hitting your funny bone a thousand times a day; it's just not fun. And I would much rather not have to go through that again."
This was Woods’ third start after missing 16 months because of back surgery. Oddly, his first start, at the Hero World Challenge provided the most hope of any. After opening there with 73 he rebounded with a second-round 65, only to finish with 70-76 on the weekend.
Last week, at the Farmer’s Insurance Open, his first official PGA Tour start of the season, he shot 76-72 and missed the cut.
The Dubai Desert Classic was the second event in a stretch where he had intended to play four events in five weeks. The original plan was to take next week off, then play the Genesis Open at Riviera and the Honda Classic at PGA National in consecutive weeks. Steinberg still feels optimistic that the next two events will happen.
“The fact that he feels that it’s not the nerve pain, that’s very encouraging for him," Steinberg said. "He’s had some spasms before."