Tiger Woods withdrew from the 2019 Northern Trust on Friday ahead of his scheduled second-round start time due to what his team called mild oblique strain. It is the 10th withdrawal of his career and first since the 2017 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
"I went for treatment early Friday morning, but unfortunately I'm still unable to compete," Woods said in a statement released Friday morning. "I'd like to thank the New Jersey and New York fans for their support and remain hopeful I can compete next week at the BMW Championship."
Woods fired a 4-over par 75 on Thursday -- sitting a massive 13 shots off the lead -- and appeared to be well on his way to missing the weekend cut for a second consecutive event just weeks after missing the cut at The Open Championship.
Though Woods has played sparingly since his Masters win in April, this is just his second non-major and fifth event overall. He's only played the weekend in two of those events.
It's been a summer full of injury talk for Woods. After looking old and brittle at The Open in Northern Ireland, he skipped a no-cut World Golf Championship event in Memphis the following week. He got to work early this week but had to pull back on Wednesday and only hit full shots for half of his pro-am.
Tiger Woods has spent his career chasing No. 18, but he's found a Catch-22 instead. His body won't let him get enough reps, so he's rusty when he plays; when he plays, his body isn't used to the reps, so it starts to break down.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) August 9, 2019
Woods' issues seem to be less long-term debilitating and more keeping him from the work he needs to do to stay on top of his game. It's hard to remain in the top 10 in the world when you don't know what you're getting from your body day in and day out. He noted this after that 75 in Round 1 that left him one shot out of last place.
"It was a little bit stiff, but that's just the way it's going to be," Woods said Thursday. "I knew today we had the perfect greens and I needed to shoot something under [par], but I went the wrong way."
What's next for Tiger Woods?
The bigger narrative here is two-fold. One, Woods isn't looking likely to defend his Tour Championship victory at East Lake in two weeks. He'll be outside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup rankings going into next week's BMW Championship, and even if he plays, would have to play well to get back inside the top 30 and onto the Tour Championship.
More broadly, though, is what Woods' schedule should be going forward. There was a lot of behind the scenes talk -- Why is he even playing this event anyway? -- regarding Woods and the Northern Trust this week. It's a fair question given how little is at stake for somebody like Woods.
So does that make him a majors-only golfer? Four events a year? It's not preposterous. But if that's the case, it's going to be difficult for him to -- as he says -- plays his way into tournament shape, to get the reps he needs. It's a weird spot for him and for everyone. Who knew the wake of a win at the Masters would provide more questions than answers?
"This year, I made a conscious effort to cut back on my schedule to make sure that I don't play too much," Woods said at The Open. "I want to play here as long as I possibly can. And you have to understand, if I play a lot, I won't be out here that long.
"So it's understanding how much I can play, prepping how much I do at home and getting ready. And that's the tricky part is trying to determine how much tournament play I need to get the feel for the shots and also understanding where my body is."
Now we're back where we began with Woods' comeback a year and a half ago. More queries about his back than his swing. More question marks about his health than his strokes gained. It's a frustrating spot to be in for other players, media and fans. But most of all, for somebody who's won so much at such a high level and once again touched the tip of the mountain, it has to be frustrating for him.