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Tiger Woods withdraws from Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms

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Just three rounds into his comeback, Tiger encounters more back trouble and has to withdraw early from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Tiger Woods’ agent explains the reason for the sudden withdrawal in Dubai.

After a cautious 17-month layoff rehabbing from his third back surgery in two years, Tiger Woods could not make it four rounds without suffering an injury that forced yet another sudden withdrawal from a tournament. Woods never made it to the course on Friday at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, where he withdrew with what his agent, Mark Steinberg, called back spasms.

The announcement came about an hour before Tiger was set to tee it up in the second round at the Emirates Golf Club. Steinberg met with the assembled media shortly thereafter to quickly explain and clarify that this was not the same nerve pain that forced his previous microdiscectomy surgeries and kept Tiger out for months and eventually all of last year. Woods looked uncomfortable and stiff in the opening round on Thursday morning in Dubai, walking gingerly from the first hole.

Steinberg stated, however, that this pain was not there at all during the opening round and the spasms did not flare up until after dinner on Thursday. Steiny’s comments, via European Tour:

"He felt OK coming off the golf course yesterday so he wasn't in pain. I didn't see him at dinner but he said he was okay and went into a spasm in his lower back, fairly late last night after dinner.

He tried to work it out last night, didn't really get it worked out. He had treatment starting pretty early this morning for probably the past three, three and a half hours. He says it's not the nerve pain that's kept him out for so long. He says it's a back spasm and he just can't get the spasm to calm down. So, that's where we are.

He feels terrible, talked to Matthew (Fitzpatrick) and Danny (Willett), he feels awful and he feels terrible for the tournament. He wanted to be here. He wants to be here. He just feels terrible that he can't, you know, finish it out today.

He can move around, he can't make a full rotation on the swing. The fact that he feels as though it's not the nerve pain, that's very encouraging for him.

The short-term prognosis, he hopes he'll be strong based on the fact that it's not that nerve pain."

Tiger looked to be if not in pain, then certain discomfort on Thursday after flying around the world from Southern California to Dubai earlier this week. He walked slow and deliberate from the putting green to the first tee, appeared to wince on his very first tee shot, and awkwardly and slowly stepped out of a bunker on his first hole.

The Euro Tour broadcast commented on it on several occasions early in his round, saying he had a “pained expression” and “I don't think his back's right, he's very tentative walking.” Those watching late at night from afar were equally alarming on Twitter.

Woods then sputtered to an ugly 77 that featured no birdies and left him near the bottom of the leaderboard and likely en route to a second missed cut in as many weeks. Despite the appearance of discomfort, Tiger insisted right after the round that he was not in any pain at all. A little less than 24 hours later, he was a WD — his seventh WD from a golf tournament since 2010 and fifth in the last three years.

Tiger’s next start is supposed to be the Genesis Open at Riviera, which comes in less than two weeks in Los Angeles. That tournament is now operated by and benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation, so he’s added it back to his schedule after a decade of skipping the LA event. This Dubai tournament was the second stop of a four-event-in-five-week stretch for Woods, a more rigorous schedule than he’d typically play in previous years in his career.

If this is merely a spasm and not something more serious, then that would keep hope alive that the start at Riviera is still possible. That’s just about the only possible good news in what so far has been a deeply discouraging and ugly 2017 comeback.