PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The road to the Masters got off to a bumpy start Sunday for Tiger Woods when he withdrew from the Honda Classic with what he said was a lower back injury.
Woods was 5-over par for the final round — 12 shots behind Rory McIlroy at the time — when he shook hands with Luke Guthrie on the 13th green and told him he was done. It was the farthest point at PGA National, and the tournament sent a van to collect Woods and his family.
Police kept the media from the parking lot.
"He just came over and said, 'I can't go anymore. It was a pleasure playing with you,'" said Luke Guthrie, paired with Woods the last two days. "I just said, 'Take it easy. Feel better.' Pretty uneventful."
But the speculation over his future figures to be a big buzz leading to the Masters next month.
Woods said through spokesman Glenn Greenspan it was a lower back problem that had started Sunday morning as he was warming up. He was to defend his title next week in the Cadillac Championship.
"Too early to tell," Woods said in a statement about playing next week at Doral. "I'll get treatment every day to try to calm it down. Just don't know yet. Wait until Thursday and see how it feels."
Woods already has played a limited schedule this year — 10 complete rounds. He was to play twice more before the Masters on April 10-13.
Woods said the spasms were similar to what he felt last August at The Barclays, where he dropped to his knees after hitting one shot. Woods finished that tournament in a tie for second, one shot behind Adam Scott.
It was the second time in two years that Woods has walked off the course in the middle of the final round. He quit after 11 holes at Doral when he was well out of contention — and then won Bay Hill two weeks later for his first PGA Tour title since his return from the chaos in his personal life.
Guthrie said he could tell early on in the round that something was not right with Woods.
"He made a couple of uncharacteristic shots — the first on 3 kind of was the first one," Guthrie said. "I didn't know if he wasn't feeling the greatest, and it kind of seemed like he might have been protecting — came up and out of it. I didn't think much of it until maybe 11. I noticed he was bending down gingerly.
"He didn't mention it to me," Guthrie said. "Obviously, he wasn't playing the greatest. I wasn't playing the greatest. He was battling out there. It's not like he was throwing in the towel. He was still trying."