AKRON — Tiger Woods withdrew from the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Championship after just eight holes Sunday, citing lower back pain.
Woods, who had microdiscectomy surgery at the end of March and was playing in just his 10th competitive round since returning, said he injured his back when he fell back into a bunker after playing an awkward shot on the second hole.
“I just jarred it, and it’s been spasming ever since,” said Woods, who was 3 over on the day, 4 over for the tournament and 18 strokes behind leader Sergio Garcia when he withdrew following his tee shot on the ninth hole. “It’s just the whole lower back.”
When Woods arrived at his courtesy car he moved gingerly and was unable to bend down to tie his sneakers. He cautiously got in the passenger seat and was driven away by caddie Joe LaCava.
Asked what his status is for next week’s PGA Championship, Woods said, “I don’t know. Just trying to get out of here.” He had planned to arrive at Valhalla on Monday for a practice round.
Woods’ status for the upcoming FedExCup Playoffs was already in jeopardy before he showed up at Firestone, where he has won a record eight times. He entered this week 215th in the standings — only the top 125 following the Wyndham Championship in two weeks are eligible.
The last time Woods, a two-time FedExCup champion, failed to qualify for the Playoffs was in 2011 when knee and Achilles injuries caused him to sit out three months in the middle of the season.
At 69th in Ryder Cup points, Woods’ status for the matches at Gleneagles later this fall is also in question. He has been on every American team since turning pro except one, missing the 2008 matches after undergoing season-ending knee surgery following his U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines.
The WGC-Bridgestone was just Woods’ third start after missing more than three months following surgery to alleviate pain caused by a pinched nerve.
In his first tournament back Woods missed the cut in July at the Quicken Loans National, where he admitted he would not have played if the tournament did not benefit his foundation. But he said his back felt good.
Two weeks later at Royal Liverpool, Woods made it to the weekend but shot a final-round 75 to finish at 3-over 294, his highest career total in an Open Championship. Still, he was encouraged that he was getting stronger.
When Woods arrived to defend his title at Firestone, he admitted the back injury proved more debilitating than he thought.
“There’s no comparison between a knee and a back,” the 38-year-old said. “The knee is so much easier to deal with and rehab from than coming back from a back. I’ve had Achilles injuries, obviously knee surgeries, but this thing is just way different.
“Most of the people I talked to who have had the procedure have no idea how I’m even back here playing.”
Sunday’s withdrawal marked the second time this season that Woods has pulled out of a tournament mid-round because of injury. He withdrew from The Honda Classic in March with five holes to play in the final round because of back spasms.