Woods pulls out of Kemper with bad back Injury chronic problem, but is nothing 'serious'

June 02, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

POTOMAC -- There will be no Tigermania at the TPC at Avenel for this year's Kemper Open.

There will be no Tiger -- period.

For the first time in his brilliant two-year career, Tiger Woods has pulled out of a PGA Tour event because of an injury. Woods was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a spokesman for International Management Group, which represents Woods, said the injury wasn't serious.

"It's a chronic back problem," said Bev Norwood.

Norwood said that Woods woke up yesterday morning with soreness in his lower back and called Keith Kleven, a physical therapist in Las Vegas he had been seeing for the past six months. According to Norwood, Kleven has diagnosed "an irregularity" in Woods' lower back.

After listening to Woods describe the pain he was feeling, Kleven told Woods to fly out to Las Vegas for treatment.

"He advised him that since the U.S. Open was coming up [in two weeks] he could aggravate the injury with one swing," Norwood said. "It's just a precaution."

The 22-year-old phenom later informed Kemper Open general chairman Ben Brundred Jr. that he was withdrawing.

"He called about 3 [p.m.]," Brundred said later. "His back stiffened up on him on the flight home last night [from Columbus, Ohio to Orlando, Fla.] after the Memorial. He went out this morning to hit balls and it got worse."

Asked what losing the biggest draw on the PGA Tour will do for this week's tournament, Brundred said, "It's obviously not good for it. But we've got a lot of good players coming. Unfortunately, a lot of golf fans were planning on coming out this weekend to see Tiger. Maybe next year."

Now they will come out to see a field that suddenly seems a little lacking in, though not devoid of, big names.

Without Woods, most of the attention will fall on defending Kemper Open and reigning British Open champion Justin Leonard, reigning Masters champion Mark O'Meara, former PGA and British Open champion John Daly and former British Open champion Tom Lehman.

Woods, ranked fourth on the money list, was only one of three players entered, along with Leonard and O'Meara, currently ranked in the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list. Brett Quigley, a 28-year-old pro currently ranked 101st on the money list with $128,078, will take Woods' place in the 156-man field.

According to the PGA Tour guidelines, a player is allowed to withdraw from a tournament because of injury or other disability that requires medical attention as he long as he submits written evidence to support such a claim within 14 days to the commissioner.

It is the second time in Woods' career that he has pulled out of an event prior to hitting a shot. The first time came two months after he turned pro in 1996 when Woods, citing fatigue, withdrew from the Buick Classic. He also skipped out on a pre-tournament dinner at which he was supposed to receive an award. Woods was widely criticized for pulling out of the tournament.

In this case, Brundred seemed understanding.

"I thought it was very classy to call before he withdrew," said Brundred.

Brundred said that tournament officials will "stand down" some of the plans made in advance of Woods coming to Avenel for the first time in his career. Brundred said last week that Woods brings an added 20,000 to 30,000 fans to each tournament he plays, and provisions were made for extra parking, security and concessions.

"Some of the security will shift over to the other players," said Brundred.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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