Tiger Woods withdraws from Dubai Desert Classic due to back injury

Woods shot 77 on Thursday and never teed off Friday.

"No, I wasn't in pain at all", Woods said after the first round at Emirates Golf Club.

Matsuyama, who beat American Rickie Fowler in a play-off to win last year's tournament, recorded four birdies in his first 17 holes before bunkering his approach into 18, splashing out to six feet and narrowly missing the par putt.

Woods had adopted a new swing to ease the strain on his back following the problems that forced him to have surgery. It was a lifetime away from the Tiger Woods that dominated the game, overpowered golf courses and made opponents choke at his very presence on the leaderboard. He expressed optimism he could get to even par in Round 2.

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The weather forecast has been spot-on so far this week in Dubai and the expected high winds have suspended play during the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic. His last two drives of the day, on the eighth and ninth, were certainly among his best, but around an hour before his second round was due to start, the European Tour announced Woods had withdrawn due to a "bad back". "Because there were times when I physically didn't know if I could get out of bed".

Woods made an eagerly awaited return at the Hero World Challenge in December, before making his PGA Tour comeback at the Farmers Insurance Open last week. Strangely all his nine birdies today - four in second round and five in third - came on the backstretch of the course. I think I just got a bit exhausted, head popped up, made a couple of bad swings and that cost me.

In a statement, his manager, Mark Steinberg, said though he didn't meet at dinner last night, all was well.

After Dubai, Woods has a week off before playing back-to-back weeks on both ends of the country, Los Angeles (Genesis Open) and Florida (Honda Classic). "He says it's a back spasm and he just can't get the spasm to calm down", said Steinberg. He missed the cut at Torrey Pines, and was on his way to doing the same in Dubai. "The fact that he feels as though it's not the nerve pain, that's very encouraging for him". If you, yanno, want to be a normal person, then just wake up on the slightly early side, get a cup of coffee, and watch his back nine before going to work for an unproductive Friday.

  • Megan Austin