PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The last time Tiger Woods quit in the middle of a round because of an injury, he won his next tournament. And then he followed that with his highest score ever in the Masters, the ultimate measure of Woods these days.
Making predictions about the world’s No. 1 player is like gauging the wind at Amen Corner. You’re bound to get it wrong for three reasons:
—Only an athlete knows how badly he is hurt.
—Golf is too unpredictable under the best of times.
—He’s Tiger Woods.
NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller got it right at the start of the year when he was talking about which players might have big years. He stopped short of naming a list of players because of reason No. 2. And then he added this nugget:
“It was pretty easy to predict Tiger there for a while,” Miller said.
These days, about all anyone can safely predict about Woods is that he’ll wear a red shirt on Sunday.
Assuming he makes it to Sunday.
In two starts on the PGA Tour this year, Woods is measured by letters instead of numbers. He had an “MDF” at Torrey Pines, which is the tour’s acronym for players who miss the 54-hole cut. And he had a “WD” at the Honda Classic when he withdrew after 13 holes on the final round on Sunday.
The question now is how long he will be MIA.
The leaders were finishing up the front nine when attention shifted from the golf course to the PGA National parking lot that suddenly was swarming with police. Some two dozen reporters and photographers were waiting for Woods. He finally showed up in a white passenger van, changed out of his shoes and then was driven off in a black Mercedes-Benz to his home just north on Jupiter Island.
Just like last time — just like always — only Woods knows the amount of the pain and the degree of the injury.
He said through spokesman Glenn Greenspan that he felt “lower back problems with spasms” as he was warming up Sunday morning. On the third hole, he hit a tee shot so far to the right that it wound up in a water hazard to the left of the sixth green. And when he played the sixth hole, he pulled his tee shot into the water. Six holes into the final round, Woods already was 5 over for the day and 12 shots out of the lead.