DORAL, Fla.>> One week after Tiger Woods showed some of his old magic, he hobbled off the golf course with an old injury.
And the Masters is only three weeks away.
Woods pounded a 321-yard tee shot on the 12th hole Sunday in the Cadillac Championship when he winced, slumping over against his driver, and the hobble became an unmistakable limp. Moments later, he shook hands with Webb Simpson and told him, "I’ve got to go in."
He was driven off in a cart to the parking lot at Doral, walked gingerly to a black sedan and drove away.
"I felt tightness in my left Achilles warming up this morning, and it continued to get progressively worse," Woods said in a statement. "After hitting my tee shot at 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw. In the past, I may have tried to continue to play, but this time I decided to do what I thought was necessary."
It’s the same Achilles that he injured last year at Augusta National, which eventually caused Woods to miss two majors last year.
The severity of this injury won’t be known until Woods has it evaluated.
NBC Sports showed Woods behind the wheel as he drove away from Doral in the black sedan.
"I didn’t really notice anything," Simpson said. "I wasn’t paying much attention, but it looked like he made a swing on 12 that really hurt. But didn’t say a whole lot. Class act. Shook my hand. Off he went.
"He just shook my hand and said, ‘I’ve got to go in.’ You could feel he was hurting. He didn’t say a whole lot, but his expression was enough that he was in enough pain to end it."
Woods is scheduled to play in two weeks at Bay Hill, his last tournament before the Masters. Woods is a four-time champion at Augusta National, and with an ordinary game, he still has tied for fourth the last two years.
"It’s a shame because he looked like he was coming out this year, swinging it really well, playing good, getting himself into contention," said Rory McIlroy, who held off Woods’ charge last week at the Honda Classic. "It’s probably just precautionary, but I really hope he’s healthy for the Masters, because obviously it would be a great week with him there. He can spark an interest in golf that no one else can."
Doral was Woods’ third straight tournament. He lost in the second round of the Match Play Championship, then shot 62 to tie for second in the Honda. When asked after the third round Saturday at Doral how is body was holding up through this stretch, he replied, "It feels great."
Steve Stricker played with him in the third round Saturday and said he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
"He always walks with a limp a little bit," Stricker said. "I noticed it a little bit again. I thought maybe that’s something he always has, like a habit."
Woods changed shoes at the turn and was lifting his left leg, slightly flexing his ankle. His limp became more pronounced, especially after he pulled his second shot on the par-5 10th, leading to bogey. The limp grew worse, and moments later, Woods was gone.
"I think maybe his heel was bothering him, or something with his foot," Simpson said. "I don’t think it’s anything serious. Like I said, we didn’t talk or anything, so I’m not sure exactly what it was."
It’s the third time in three years that Woods has withdrawn from a tournament. The most recent was at The Players Championship last May, when he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass after a 42 on the opening nine holes.
He then took three months off to let his left leg fully heal, returning at the Bridgestone Invitational. Woods said he wanted to make sure he didn’t come back until he knew there would be no more issues with his leg. Since then, he has been able to practice more and adjust to swing changes, and from tee-to-green his golf has looked solid.
"That’s not good news," Justin Rose said after his one-shot victory for his first World Golf Championship. "Hopefully, (he’s) holding himself back for the Masters and doesn’t want do any more damage."
Woods has had four surgeries on his left knee dating to when he was at Stanford. The most significant was in June 2008, when he had reconstructive surgery to repair ligaments just a week after winning the U.S. Open for his 14th major. Woods has not won a major since then, and he has missed four majors because of injuries.
Woods attracted the largest galleries of the week, even starting the final round eight shots out of the lead. When he left, so did most of the crowd.
"It was a bit weird," Simpson said. "It went from one extreme to the other, from playing with all the people to playing with no people. I wasn’t playing too good, so I didn’t really care."