PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Dressed in his Sunday red shirt, Tiger Woods bowed his head and sat in silence in front of his locker.
He was supposed to be on the ninth hole at The Players Championship. In another stunning twist for someone whose life used to be so predictable, Woods withdrew suddenly with neck pain that he fears might be a bulging disk.
Woods was so frustrated that he slammed his golf shoe to the floor while taking questions from three reporters.
“I’ve been playing through it,” Woods said of pain he first felt before the Masters. “I can’t play through it anymore.”
Woods said he did not know what caused the injury, only that “playing doesn’t help it.” He took 10 questions before going into a physical therapy trailer for 37 minutes and leaving the TPC Sawgrass.
“I knew his neck had been bothering him but Tiger doesn’t ever make excuses, so it was hatd (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 US Open on a broken leg and if he couldn’t play anymore today it must be pretty bad.”
This is Woods’ first withdrawal from a tournament since the Nissan Open at Riviera in 2006, when he narrowly made the cut and withdrew from the final two rounds because of the flu. He also withdrew from the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills as a 19-year-old amateur because of a wrist injury from hitting out of deep rough.
This one caught everyone by surprise.
The only time he had mentioned his neck was during a news conference last month at the Masters. Woods was taken to the hospital Nov. 27 after driving his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree, the infamous accident that set off shocking revelations of extramarital affairs that led to his five-month break from golf.
Asked at Augusta what injuries he suffered that night, Woods said, “I had a busted-up lip and a pretty sore neck, and that was it.”
He didn’t cite pain when he struggled last week at Quail Hollow and missed the cut for the sixth time in his career. But it became obvious something was wrong Sunday on the par-4 seventh hole at Sawgrass.
After hitting his tee shot well right, Woods called for an official. He hit his second shot and grimaced, then walked to the middle of the fairway, shook hands with playing partner Jason Bohn and left in a golf cart. Fans gave him a warm ovation, with one man shouting, “Hurry back, Tiger.”
Bohn noticed 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 plain clothes, sheriff’s officers and extra volunteers who followed Woods around the Stadium Course all week.
Latest golf video
The Office's Baumgartner shows off his golf game
DPS: Actor Brian Baumgartner from "The Office" tells Dan Patrick how he felt about the series finale of his show and delves into his golfing routines and even hits the ball while still on the phone with the DPS crew.
Top 10 'accessible' golf courses
From California to Florida, these amazing greens are open for anyone to play.