Tiger Woods withdrew from the 2017 Omega Dubai Desert Classic before his Friday tee time, citing back spasms he experienced at dinner on Thursday night.
Woods opened the tournament, which he's won twice, with a birdie-free, 5-over 77, which left him tied for 121st place in the 132-player field when play was called on Thursday evening. Later in the evening, after Woods went to dinner, he started to experience back spasms in his lower back, according to agent Mark Steinberg. After receiving three-and-a-half hours of treatment for the problem on Friday morning, Woods chose to withdraw approximately an hour before his tee time.
In the opening round, Woods looked stiff from the start, bogeying two of the first three holes and routinely coming up short with his approach shots. At times, Woods had a noticeable gimp, but he insisted after the round that he was pain-free throughout.
Steinberg said Woods didn't experience additional pain related to the nerve problems that have forced three back surgeries since March 2014, with the last two in Fall 2015 leading to a 16-month absence from competitive golf that ended at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016.
“He says it’s not the nerve pain that’s kept him out for so long,” Steinberg said. “He says it’s a back spasm and he just can’t get the spasm to calm down. So that’s where we are.”
Woods had planned to play four times in five weeks to start his season. He was cut at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, shooting 76-72 to miss the weekend field by four shots. His 77 on Thursday left him a deep hole to make the cut in Dubai, even before the morning half of the field on Friday faced high winds that ultimately led to a controversial suspension of play.
He had planned a week off after Dubai, and then Woods planned to play in the Genesis Open in Los Angeles, which is now run by his company TGR's tournament-management arm. Then he planned to compete in The Honda Classic near his Jupiter, Fla., home the next week.
Woods is hopeful to stick to the plan.
“The short-term prognosis,” Steinberg said, “he hopes he’ll be strong based on the fact that it’s not that nerve pain.”
However, the withdrawals pile up, as ESPN's Jason Sobel notes, this marking the fourth time in his last 19 starts, compared to five WDs in his prior 322 pro starts.