Akron: Defending champion Tiger Woods pulled out of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio during the final round on Sunday due to a back injury.
The former world No. 1 and 14-time Major champion made a double-bogey on the seventh hole and looked to be in pain after his drive at the ninth before deciding to retire on four over par, 18 shots behind overnight leader Sergio Garcia.
Woods was limping as he climbed into a golf cart and quickly left the course before issuing a short statement.
“It happened on the second hole when I hit my second shot. I fell back in the bunker... I just jarred it and it’s been spasming ever since,” he said.
On Saturday, Sergio Garcia maintained a three-stroke lead after the third round, while Rory McIlroy loomed large in second place as the two Europeans set the stage for another showdown.
Two weeks after McIlroy staved off a final round challenge from Garcia to win the British Open, the Northern Irishman will be the hunter instead of the hunted.
Garcia, coming off a course record-equalling 61, was solid rather than spectacular as he fashioned a three-under-par 67 at Firestone Country Club. He posted a 14-under 196 total with one round left, while McIlroy birdied the final two holes, rolling in a 35-footer at the last to card a 66 for 11-under.
Not that it was only a two-horse race after a round that was interrupted for more than three hours by storms.
Marc Leishman was four shots behind, while another Australian, world No. 1 Adam Scott, was five back with Englishman Justin Rose and American Keegan Bradley.
“I misread a couple of putts here and there and hit a couple of not so good putts,” Garcia said, otherwise expressing overall satisfaction with his game and welcoming the chance to potentially duel again with McIlroy.
McIlroy for his part was relishing the chance to pursue the man with whom he will form the backbone of the European team for next month's Ryder Cup.
“Sergio was chasing me down at Royal Liverpool. I’m going to try and chase him down this week,” said McIlroy, who can displace Scott at the top of the world rankings on Sunday. McIlroy must win and Scott finish worse than fifth for this to happen.
The presence of four of the world’s five top-ranked players on the leaderboard overshadowed the continuing struggles of Americans Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the most successful two players of the past two decades.
They were 15 and 17 strokes behind, respectively, and have only one more competitive round to find their game before next week’s PGA Championship. “I did not putt well again,” said Woods, who has won eight times at Firestone.