What looked like a promising weekend at Doral, one that could have yielded Tiger Woods a championship, has instead disintegrated into another despairing low point of the golfer’s post-divorce career. Woods shot 6 over par to finish with a final round 78 and a gap of nine strokes between himself and the winner Patrick Reed. What’s worse is that the back issues that had forced him to withdraw from a tournament earlier in the week were clearly responsible for much of his anguish on Sunday.
Woods, who is the top-ranked player in the world right now, started out on Sunday only three shots off the lead at Dora’s beautiful Blue Monster links. In a post game interview Woods said that a shot he took on the sixth hole, a par-4, gave him pretty significant muscle spasms because he had to take this shot, from a fairway bunker, in a awkward stance. He also said that the pain was very similar to what he felt at the Honda Classic.
At the Honda classic Woods was forced to withdraw due to pain after the 13th hole, this time around he was able to play out the round but it became clear, as Gene Wojciechowski writes for ESPN, that “his back pain will be a recurring question for the foreseeable future.”
After the round Wood said that has been “tough,” because it was just this one problem that took the weekend away from him. He also added that typically when something like these back spasms happen, if he simply shuts his excursion down for a time he typically feels a return of strength in his game. Woods plans to take the rest of this week off before preparing for the Bay Hill course.
His game seemed to suffer the most on the putting green on Sunday, after bogeying six, Woods missed birdie opportunities on the eighth and the 10th greens and it did appear as though he was having trouble staying rooted in his stance.
Some would argue that putting will be Woods’ toughest challenge in the future because of his back. Putting requires sustained flexion in the back, as apposed to the quick movements of driving the golf ball. Woods said that the “deeper the flexion, the worse it felt,” he also said that hitting his driver felt fine even after his back spasms.
The shot that started these troubles saw the former major champion with one foot in the bunker and one out. He knew he could have simply pitched the ball out of the sand and set up his next shot, but he says he never considered that a viable option. He took a full swing with an 8 iron. He says that the shot was an easy one and should not have been a major problem but that it was and that afterwards his day was more concerned with keeping the spasms at bay, rather then really making big shots on the golf course.
Though he is the number one ranked player, he is also off to the worst start of his career. At Farmer’s he tied for 80th, followed by a tie for 41st at Dubai and then the withdraw at the Honda Classic before yesterdays collapse. Woods will play the Bay Hill course as a part of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his final tournament before the Masters. Woods’ final day collapse, and added back spasms, will be something to pay attention as players prepare for the approach of the major tournaments.
By Nick Manai