Fresh fears over Tiger's future after spasms
The familiar, if depressing question is inevitably being asked again. What next for Tiger Woods after he withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic before his second round with yet another back complaint?
Mark Steinberg said that, while Woods felt "awful" to be letting down the tournament - where, it is understood, he was paid a £1m appearance fee - he was "encouraged" that he was not suffering from the nerve pains in his spine which caused him to three back operations and take off almost 18 months.
But just three official rounds into this comeback, it was hard to put anything but a negative slant on this latest setback.
After a week off, Woods, ranked 666th in the world, is due to play in back-to-back events in America - the LA Open and Honda Classic - and Steinberg signified he still intends to do so. Woods was clearly walking gingerly and looked in some discomfort during an opening 77, which contained no birdies, but afterwards he insisted he was "in no pain at all".
Woods, apparently, "felt fine before dinner", but the lower back spasms came on late in the evening.
"It's a back spasm," Steinberg said. "He can move around, but can't make a full rotation on the swing. The fact that he feels as though it's not the nerve pain that kept him out for so long is very encouraging."
There were many raised eyebrows in the first place when Woods agreed to make the 17-hour trip across 12 zones from California - where he missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open last week - and Steinberg acknowledged this could be partly to blame.
The mood was a mixture of incredulity and dismay both on the range and in the galleries as the news came a little more than an hour before his lunchtime tee-off.
There was a record 12,500 crowd to watch the superstar and, even though there was little chance of him making the cut - with Woods down in 121st place in the 132-man field - this was a huge blow for the organisers. (© Daily Telegraph, London)