Ailing Woods losing late-round form with Augusta looming

World No 1 Tiger Woods has completed just two starts in 2.5 months, and needs tournament competition to hone his game, but his back needs rest and rehab, writes Steve Elling.
World No 1 Tiger Woods has completed just two starts in 2.5 months, and needs tournament competition to hone his game, but his back needs rest and rehab. Lynne Sladky / AP Photo
World No 1 Tiger Woods has completed just two starts in 2.5 months, and needs tournament competition to hone his game, but his back needs rest and rehab. Lynne Sladky / AP Photo

Does the Masters have a masseur?

There was little about Tiger Woods’s performance last week, coming off an injury-related withdrawal, that suggested he is built for the longer haul. And by that we mean the road to Augusta National, which is less than a month away.

After shooting the lowest round of the week at the revamped Trump National Doral course on Saturday, a 6-under 66, Woods again tweaked his chronically sore back on the sixth hole of the final round of the Cadillac Championship, leading to a 6-over 78, his worst career final-round score.

Even after winning five times in 2013, Woods had an underwhelming record in the final round, where he ranked No 93 in scoring average.

Sunday, he hit a fan in the head with his first shot, then hit another on the third hole before whacking a ball in the water on the sixth as he dropped from joint fourth to a tie for 25th. A week earlier, he walked off the course in the final round because of back issues.

After taking this week off, Woods is set to defend his title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event he has won eight times.

This creates a quandary.

He has completed two starts in 2.5 months, and needs tournament competition to hone his game, but his back needs rest and rehab. Skipping Palmer’s event would signal a major health crisis for the increasingly brittle 38-year-old.

As ever, whatever he decides will draw several million eyeballs and nearly as many opinions.

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Published: March 12, 2014 04:00 AM

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