Injured Tiger a doubt for PGA C'ship
TIGER Woods' comeback trail is at an impasse after he was forced to withdraw midway through Sunday's final round of the Bridgestone Invitational, the World Golf Championships (WGC) event.
The American, making his third start since returning from back surgery in March, re-injured his lower back on the second hole after hitting his second shot from an awkward stance in the grass near a bunker.
With his weight almost entirely on his right leg and his left leg positioned above the bunker's lip for balance, he got the ball out with a swing that made him bend his left knee into the air on the follow-through. He lost his balance and fell into the bunker, jarring his back.
"It's been spasming ever since," he said, adding: "It's just the whole lower back. I don't know what happened."
The injury puts his participation in this week's PGA Championship in doubt. He needs a victory in the tournament to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs and improve his standing for a spot on the US' Ryder Cup team.
Asked about his playing status for the PGA Championship, Woods said: "I don't know. Just trying to get out of here."
Sunday saw British Open champion Rory McIlroy outduel Sergio Garcia to win the WGC event and regain the world No. 1 ranking.
McIlroy erased a three-shot overnight deficit, firing a final round of four-under 66 for a 15-under 265 and a two-shot win over Garcia (71).
Woods' round on Sunday had gone awry from the start. He was one minute from teeing off in steady rain when play was suspended because of water pooling on the course.
After warming up, he faced a 75-minute delay before his opening tee shot - not ideal for anyone with a back problem.
Woods, the defending champion, birdied the first hole and scrambled for par at the second, a par five, but shortly thereafter started playing loose shots, punctuated by grimaces.
"He hit some shots that we're not used to seeing Tiger hit even when he's coming back from an injury like this, so obviously something was bothering him," said Bubba Watson, the Masters champion who was grouped with Woods.
After his drive on the par-four ninth, Woods had a hard time reaching down to retrieve his tee. At that point, Woods, who was three over on the day, signalled for a cart and, after shaking Watson's hand, left the course.
He was grimacing as the cart came to a stop next to his hatchback. He clutched his right buttock as he slowly stood up, and struggled to raise each leg onto the bumper to remove his golf shoes.
After slipping his feet into sneakers, he did not bother trying to tie the laces. He gingerly walked to the side of the car and folded himself into the passenger seat. His caddy, Joe LaCava, drove him away, to an uncertain future.
"We've seen this man win with a hurt leg," Watson said, referring to Woods' victory at the 2008 US Open, which he played with a broken leg. "So he's going to try to be a champion; he's going to try to tough it out. Obviously, it just got too tough for him."