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Neck injury forces Tiger Woods to withdraw during round

He leaves the Players Championship on the seventh hole, saying he has been having pain for weeks. He says doctors have told him he might have a bulging disk.

May 09, 2010|By Jeff Shain

Reporting from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. -- That bizarre Thanksgiving night SUV wreck still might be haunting Tiger Woods — on the golf course. And suddenly, his health for another U.S. Open may be in jeopardy.

Woods withdrew midway through Sunday's final round at the Players Championship, complaining of a neck injury that he revealed for the first time has been bothering him for weeks.

Woods grimaced in pain after a wayward drive soared well right of the fairway at No. 7, then asked a marshal to call for assistance. He tracked down his ball and played a shot that landed in front of the green, then walked over to tell playing partner Jason Bohn he wouldn't continue.

"I've been playing with a bad neck for quite a while," Woods told a pool reporter after he was carted off to the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse.

He said doctors have told him he might have a bulging disk and advised him even before the Players to make an appointment for an MRI exam.

"I've been playing through it. I can't play through it anymore," he said. "There's tingling down my fingers."

It was the first time golf's No. 1 draw has made public mention of any recurring neck problems. Woods acknowledged at his first post-exile Masters news conference that the Nov. 27 accident outside his Orlando-area home left him with a "pretty sore neck" — but it never came up when he missed the cut at last week's stop in Charlotte, N.C.

Woods backed into a fire hydrant and careened into a tree on that fateful night, leaving him dazed and requiring a trip to the emergency room.

The accident became the catalyst that pulled back the veil on a string of affairs that shattered his marriage and prompted him to step away from the game while he spent seven weeks undergoing counseling.

Woods, who started the round 10 shots off the lead at four under par, was two over par through six holes Sunday, with bogeys at the par-three third hole and par-four fifth. Bohn said he was "a little surprised" at first to see him walking over to explain that his day was finished.

"When I shook his hand and said, 'Take care of yourself,' he kind of flinched a little bit," said Bohn, a winner in New Orleans two weeks ago.

Bohn said he noticed Woods rolling his neck as they waited to be announced on the first tee, but "I don't know his routine, so I don't know if that's part of his stretching out or trying to get himself ready to go."

The development comes only six weeks before the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where Woods won by a record 15 strokes in the tournament's last visit to the Monterey Peninsula a decade ago.

It was two years back that Woods produced a stirring Open triumph of a different variety — beating Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff while playing on a torn knee ligament and two stress fractures in his left leg.

On Sunday, Woods went from the clubhouse to the PGA Tour's fitness trailer, where a crowd of media members gathered outside as the golfer spent about 30 minutes receiving treatment.

About half a dozen St. John's County sheriff's deputies joined other security personnel in front of the trailer as two black SUVs were backed up to the entrance. A stiff-moving Woods finally emerged, got in the back seat of the second vehicle and was driven away.

"It's a scary feeling when your fingers are tingling and you're hitting shots and getting headaches," said Davis Love III, who has been plagued by neck problems during his career. "I think I birdied a hole and withdrew on the same hole at the Tour Championship one year."

Woods has withdrawn midway through a tournament twice before in his career — at the 2006 Nissan Open after being knocked flat by flu, and the 1998 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when torrential rains prompted PGA Tour officials to postpone the final round six months to late August.

He also withdrew from the 1995 U.S. Open as a 19-year-old amateur, having hurt his wrist while playing a shot from deep Shinnecock Hills rough.

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