Tiger Woods withdraws at Torrey Pines because of back issues

Tiger Woods stops on the 11th hole at Torrey Pines after two fog delays

Tiger Woods bettered last week's miserable round of 82 with a first-day 47 at the opening round of Thursday's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Unfortunately, his score was through 11 holes and there isn't going to be a second day.

You wonder, at this point, how long the massive galleries are going to keep beating a path down his fairways.

Out to prove he isn't washed up at 39 and that last week's 82 could happen to anyone, Wood didn't bolster his case by having to withdraw due to, well, back issues.

You couldn't say "injury" because Woods took the eighth-grade biology route by saying he couldn't "activate his glutes."

He was referring to back side muscles known as "gluteus maximus." Woods said they were "shutting off" and could never get restarted.

He said two fog delays contributed to his WD. He was two over at the time.

"I tried to activate my glutes as best I could," he said, "but they just never stay activated."

As a result, Woods deactivated from Torrey Pines and left with his game in a fog. It was his third withdrawal in his last eight starts and, more telling, only his eighth in 304 professional starts.

Joining Woods as a non-finisher Thursday was the entire first round, which started too late to be completed.

Darkness forced suspension of play at 5:16 p.m. with 42 players still on course.

No one imagined a "Thompson" to be among the early leaders, so two was definitely a double take.

Nicholas Thompson, with no PGA wins in 198 career starts, got to the clubhouse with an eight-under 64, with Michael Thompson one shot back at 65.

Both played the "easier" North Course, although Nicholas Thompson said the North has always "been my nemesis."

Nicholas is ranked No.220 in the world while Michael is 272. They are not related, so, thus, not the Thompson Twins.

Michael has one tour win, the 2013 Honda Classic. He finished tied for second at the 2012 U.S. Open.

Brooks Koepka and Cameron Tringale are two shots back at 66.

Koepka is riding the momentum of his first tour win at last week's Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Koepka, get this, shot 66 on the North on his first try at Torrey Pines (He played 18 total practice holes Tuesday and Wednesday).

"I've never played here, this is my first time," he said.

Six players are three shots back at 67, including Jhonattan Vegas, who had the best round of the day on the South Course.

Other notables: Dustin Johnson, playing for the first time since taking a leave of absence in July to address personal issues, is two over through 17 on the South.

Three-time Farmers winner Phil Mickelson is one over through 15 on the South.

Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, both 21 and considered favorites among the "young guns" this week, both shot even-par 72.

Unlike Woods, they will play Friday.

Woods' day began on the 10th tee of the North Course and ended at the184-yard, par-three third.

He found the green with his tee shot but did not putt out. He walked off after shaking hands with playing partners Billy Horschel and Rickie Fowler. Woods was jettisoned via golf cart to the parking lot, where he briefly addressed reporters before driving away in a Porsche.

Woods said his back never loosened back up after the fog horns sounded.

His 9:20 a.m. tee was moved to 10:20 but delayed again to 11:40.

Woods' withdrawal will do little to quell talk about the recent decline of his game. He said this week he felt great, physically, so either this was another back spasm, or another career spasm.

Woods' early exit was another blow to him, his psyche, golf patrons, and the ratings for the Farmers Insurance Open, which he has won seven times.

Thursday, at least for a while, presented an opportunity for common folk to get intimate with Woods.

You couldn't get close when he was No.1 and winning majors because he usually hit to the crowd-control safety of the fairways.

It is certainly easier to cozy up to a golfer ranked No. 56.

Woods' first public appearance since last week's folding-tent 82 was not as calamitous, but nor was it reassuring.

His errant shots kept marshals, law enforcement and volunteers on edge as he kept rearranging vantage points and rope lines.

His score was better, but his game, health and future remain on high alert.

Woods, at times, looked like he was in a receiving line as he poked out shots, in between rows of people, from behind trees and greenside bunkers.

He started at No. 10 on the North and, on his front nine, hit as many cart paths as fairways: one.

His hyper-analyzed chipping game was tested immediately when he short-sided himself on the first par four and had to squeeze out a delicate shot from deep rough. The result: bogey.

Next hole, though, he chipped in to save par, which must have caused conniption fits at the Golf Channel.

Was the slump over? Well, no.

Woods hit the cart path on the par-three 12th hole and was lucky his ball landed on the 13th tee box, where he was able to salvage bogey.

He began tugging at his back just before the turn and tweaked it No. 1, his 10th hole. He made birdie to get back to even overall but doubled the second and withdrew at the third.

You can't get dramatic and say this was Tiger Woods riding off into the sunset. He didn't make it to sunset.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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