Tiger Woods withdraws from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic due to back spasms. Let's looks at the key questions facing the 14-time major winner
Tiger Woods was forced to withdraw from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic due to back spasms, the latest injury problem to affect the former world number one.
Here, we look at the key questions facing the 14-time major winner.
So what happened in Dubai?
Woods insisted he was not in pain after struggling to an opening 77 at Emirates Golf Club, two shots higher than his previous worst in the event. 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among his best, but around an hour before his second round was due to start, the European Tour announced Woods had withdrawn due to a "bad back".
How serious is the problem?
Given that Woods underwent three back operations in the space of 19 months, any back injury is clearly a matter of serious concern. The 41-year-old was playing just his third event since August 2015 and did not look 100 per cent fit on day one, climbing gingerly out of a bunker on his first hole and noticeably grimacing after his tee shot on the seventh - his 16th. However, his agent Mark Steinberg said Woods was suffering from a back spasm and not the nerve pain which had kept him sidelined for so long, with the "short-term prognosis hopefully strong".
Yes and no. Steinberg admitted Woods had experienced other spasms in recent months, during which time he finished 15th out of 17 in the Hero World Challenge in December and missed the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open last week. However, Steinberg also conceded with delightful understatement that Woods "doesn't have the strongest back in the world" after his previous issues and there is little sign of it getting any better. The likes of Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus have all won major titles in their 40s, but none of them had as many serious injuries to overcome as Woods.
Is there anything else wrong?
For all the analysis of Woods' rebuilt swing, renowned golf coach Pete Cowen - who works with Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett among others - believes that is not the only problem. Cowen believes Woods is suffering from "stage fright" and is "terrified of looking like the rest of us" as he realises he cannot play the same way he used to.
So is this the end?
Woods has been written off before and it was only in 2013 that he won five times on the PGA Tour to end the year as world number one. If anyone has the strength of mind to be able to find a way to win again, it is Woods. Having said that, it is no use having a strong mind if the body refuses to co-operate and even Woods looked a little forlorn in Dubai. All eyes will be on his next scheduled appearance in the Genesis Open.