Back problems return to cast doubt over Woods' future
Tiger Woods insisted he would be back out for the second round of the Open but the way he grimaced and talked about how "sore" he was raised fresh doubts about how many more Major championships he would be able to grace with his presence.
Woods, the resurrected Masters champion, is in trouble with his back again and made no attempt to hide it as he hauled himself into the interview hut after a troubled seven-over-par round of 78.
"I'm sore, yes," Woods admitted. "Yes there are," he said when asked whether there were shots he is physically unable to execute.
"I'm just not moving as well as I'd like, and unfortunately you've got to be able to move and, especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball - and I didn't do that. Everything was left to right and I wasn't hitting the golf ball very solidly. It's just the way it is. It's just father time and the procedures I've had over time. It's just the way it's going to be.
"One of the reasons I am playing less tournaments this year is that hopefully I can prolong my career and be out there a bit longer."
Woods then headed off to receive treatment as the Royal Portrush crowd chewed over the realisation that the greatest player of the post-Jack Nickalus era and Rory McIlroy were a combined 15 over for 18 holes.
Many also wondered whether Woods's triumph at Augusta was the end of the comeback trail, not the start of a renewed assault on Nicklaus's record of 18 Major titles.
Spinal fusion surgery, which Woods had, is the nuclear option for athletes. It would be ominous for his career for Woods to slide back into a constant battle with back pain.
"If I'm at home and have school pickup and soccer practices I'm lot more sore than I am now," he said. "But playing at this elite level is a completely different deal. You have to be spot on. These guys are too good. There are too many guys that are playing well and I am not one of them."
He started steadily but went bogey double-bogey at the fifth and sixth holes, then dropped a shot at nine to reach the turn five-over. From there he was in damage limitation mode.
Woods yesterday ruefully recalled his glorious Masters triumph but that may now be remembered as a brief respite from the damage to his body, which betrayed him again in the wind and cold of County Antrim. (© Daily Telegraph, London)