Tiger Woods’ withdrawal from the Dubai Desert Classic after just 18 holes begins yet another chapter in the history of a player whose glorious career stretching back 20 years is in danger of being overshadowed by current events.

The 14-time Major winner shot an opening round 77 in Dubai, and would have most likely missed the cut, but fans and sponsors were robbed of seeing him in action again on Friday when his notoriously frail back went into spasm after he came off the course, and despite several hours of intensive physio, Woods deemed him unable to continue.

Struggling for form and hampered by injury, Woods’ career is beginning to resemble the path followed by that other great golfing genius, the late Seve Ballesteros, whose game went sideways during the final years of his career.

Since 2010, Woods has pulled out of seven tournaments, four of them because of back problems. In his first 322 starts as a professional, he had four withdrawals. Over the past 19, he has had five.

“He says it’s not the nerve pain that’s kept him out for so long,” said Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg. “He says it’s a back spasm, and he just can’t get the spasm to calm down. He doesn’t have the strongest back in the world, so it’s probably easier to spasm because of the issues he’s had. But he wanted to be here. He just feels terrible that he can’t finish it out.”

Injury aside, the early signs are that Woods is not about to make a Lazarus-style comeback. A missed cut at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open was littered with erratic driving, and whatever form he said he had found on the range seems to desert him when he goes out onto the golf course.

Woods has yet to issue a statement regarding his future schedule, which was supposed to include the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open and Honda Classic before the end of February. Thereafter, he was expected to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, before teeing up at the Masters for the 21st time.

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