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Woods career in the balance as he breaks down again

By: Golf Shake | Fri 06 Feb 2015

THE public humiliation of Tiger Woods continues. As if what happened at Phoenix were not bad enough, the 14-time major champion was forced to quit during the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines - a course where has won seven times in the past.

He was two over par after 11 holes when he told his playing partners, Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel, that he was sufferance a recurrence of the back problems that laid him low for much of 2014. There must now be questions over whether we have seen the end of this great athlete, whose 39-year-old body might well be screaming: "Enough!"

Tiger Woods WD Farmers Insurance

Woods blamed a lack of preparation for his problems, but he is not fooling anybody. The opening round was suspended for two hours because of fog and he insisted that he hadn't been able to hit enough shots on the range to properly loosen up his back before play resumed.

It became clear early in his round that Woods was in trouble again. He appeared to hurt his back while hitting his drive at the 12th - his third hole of the day - but carried on for eight more holes. Fowler and Horschel even had to help him retrieve his ball from the hole.
He said that his lower back started to become tight during the delay. "My glutes keep shutting off and that causes me pain in my back," he said. "It got worse as we stood waiting on the putting green during the delay and I tried warming up my glutes, but it just wasn't working for me. When we went back out, it just got progressively worse."

To this observer, part of the problem appears to be that Woods is simply swinging the club too hard and too fast, which seems a pretty odd thing to do if you have back problems. His timing was all over the place and he could not find a fairway to save his life, meaning that he was hitting approach shots from the rough - something which put even more strain on his body. He did manage a couple of birdies, but there were also two bogeys and a double-bogey.

He says that everything is geared towards The Masters in April. In his mind that might actually be true, but his chances of being fit and having his game in a state to make any sort of challenge for the season's first major are slim to non-existent.

Woods' withdrawal took the heat off Dustin Johnson, playing in his first tournament for six months after "taking time off". The American says that stories about him having issues with  cocaine are off the mark, but it is instructive that his lawyers have not issued any warnings or writs.

The 30-year-old, who has recently become a father, looked in good shape early on and when he holed his approach for an eagle at the fourth he was two under par. But Johnson soon showed signs of ring rust and dropped shots at the fifth, sixth, 10th 12th and 14th halted his progress. He birdied the 17th and, with one hole still to complete when play was suspended for the day, he stood at two over par - 10 behind the leader, Nicholas Thompson, who fired a 64.

There is a tournament going on at Torrey Pines, but the real drama continues to unfold back in Florida, to where Woods has returned, wondering: "What next?"

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