At last year’s Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy was ranked No. 1 in the world, but had to withdraw from the tournament in the second round due to what he claimed was a “sore wisdom tooth”. He was playing poorly, and whether or not that toothache had anything to do with his quick exit, it quickly set the tone for the rest of 2013, a down season for McIlroy.
It’s not an exact mirror image, but No. 1 once again had to walk away, as Tiger Woods withdrew from the tournament on Sunday, citing a bad back after 13 holes. Woods had already given up any hope he had of a miraculous comeback, as he was five over par for the round.
Now, Woods must focus on not following McIlroy’s 2013 path even further as he looks forward to the year’s majors. It was just the seventh time Woods has had to withdraw from a tournament, but the fourth in the last five years.
The timing of this injury couldn’t be any worse for Woods. Not only is he scheduled to defend his title at this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, but this was supposed to be the start of his ramp up to the Masters. If he has any hopes of getting another green jacket for his 15th major championship, it won’t matter how good his game is if he can’t stay healthy and on the course for four days.
Of course it’s early, but Woods has yet to complete an official tournament this season. He has just one FedEx Cup point, and as he already plays a somewhat limited schedule, built to peak at the majors, he has plenty of work ahead of him just to get back to his usual place near the top.
Even though this is the same man who won the 2008 U.S. Open over Rocco Mediate on one leg, you have to wonder when these little nagging injuries are going to turn into something big again. At 38, we’ve always said that Woods has plenty of years ahead of him, but if he’s ever forced to miss extended time again, his chase for Jack Nicklaus‘s record will get exponentially tougher.
Just when it looked like Woods had turned things around with his Saturday round of 65, it all came crashing back to earth with one poorly timed tweak. Even though Woods is one of the few players you can never count out due to his incomparable work ethic and sometimes superhuman talent, hopefully this isn’t just another sign of time catching up to him.
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