PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods withdrew from The Players Championship seven holes into the final round Sunday, citing neck pain that sent a tingling sensation “down into my (right) fingers.”
He suggested it could be a bulging disk and he would have an MRI this week.
Having hit his second shot up near the green at the par-4 seventh hole at TPC Sawgrass, Woods told officials that he had had it. He was 2 over in his round, 2 under for the tournament.
Woods, ranked No. 1 in the world, was whisked away on a cart and went into the locker room. Sitting at his locker as he changed into sneakers, Woods hung his head in obvious discomfort and at one point slammed down one of his shoes. Then he leaned his head back against the locker and closed his eyes for a good 30 seconds.
“I can’t play through it no more,” Woods said. “I’m having a hard time with the pain.
“I’ve been playing with a bad neck for about a month now.”
Did it cause him issues at last month’s Masters?
“Yeah,” Woods said.
The Masters marked Woods’ return to action since his five-month seclusion from a sex scandal that rocked his world. He tied for fourth there, then played perhaps his worst-ever professional tournament last week at Quail Hollow, missing the cut with rounds of 74-79.
This week, Woods was tied for 45th through three rounds, playing steadily but unspectacularly. He was driving the ball poorly at times and quite often could be seen stretching his neck, even more often than usual.
Asked where he felt the pain, Woods said, “on my backswing, my downswing, my follow-through, everything.”
He conceded he probably did it more harm than good by trying to play through the pain.
“I knew his neck had been bothering him, but Tiger doesn’t ever make excuses, so it was hard to tell just how bad it was,” swing coach Hank Haney said in a text message to The Associated Press. “Having said that, he won the U.S. Open on a broken leg, and if he couldn’t play anymore today it must be pretty bad.”
It’s the first time Woods has withdrawn from a tournament since the Nissan Open in 2006.
Playing competitor Jason Bohn noticed during Sunday’s final round that Woods loosened his neck muscles on the first tee, but he didn’t see any signs Woods was in pain until they exchanged pleasantries in the seventh fairway.
“He just said, ‘I’m done,’ ” Bohn said. “Then I kind of inquired about it. I said, ‘Are you OK? . . . I said, ‘Is it your wrist?’ He said, ‘No, it’s my neck.’ I could tell when he shook his hand; he kind of stiffened up. When your neck hurts, it’s pretty severe. But you could tell when he was leaving he was in pain.”
The large gallery following Woods dispersed soon after he did. Bohn played the final 11 holes alone – without all the FBI agents dressed in plainclothes, deputy sheriffs and extra volunteers who followed Woods around the Stadium Course all week.
“I was a little disappointed,” Bohn said jokingly after shooting an 8-over 80. “I thought they were there for me, to be honest.”
As Woods was driven from the golf course, he continually squeezed his right hand and released his fingers.
“I might have a bulging disk,” he said.
Nearly 100 reporters and photographers waited outside the physical-therapy trailer for Woods, who was whisked away in a black SUV without taking more questions.
Woods started the final round 10 shots out of the lead and was 2 over par through six holes. He struggled on just about every hole, finding a bunker off the first tee, coming up short on several approach shots and pushing several tee shots right.
He said pain was bothering him from the time he took the club back until he finished his swing.
“Setting up over the ball is fine,” he said, “but once I start making the motion, it’s downhill from there.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this report