With the U.S. Open just two weeks away, Tiger Woods withdrew Monday from the Kemper Open with a sore back and flew to Las Vegas for treatment.
"His physical therapist advised him that with the U.S. Open coming up he could aggravate the condition by playing this week and suggested he come to Las Vegas for treatment," said Bev Norwood, a spokesman for Woods with International Management Group.
Las Vegas is also where Woods' coach, Butch Harmon, is based.
Woods played last week at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, finishing 51st. He flew home to Orlando, Fla., Sunday night.
"This is a precautionary measure to ensure that he is ready and able to play in the U.S. Open," Norwood said.
Ben Bundred, Kemper Open tournament chairman, said Woods felt his back stiffen on the flight from Ohio to Orlando. He said the pain worsened when Woods hit balls in Orlando on Monday morning.
"He thought nothing of it, went to bed, and this morning when he went to work out, it hurt worse," Bundred said.
Bundred added that Woods recently had an MRI on his back and that his therapist, Keith Kleven, suggested Woods fly to Las Vegas for treatment of what could be a "potential chronic problem."
Woods has played in 39 PGA Tour events since turning pro in 1996, and this was the first time he withdrew because of injury. He pulled out of the 1995 U.S. Open as a amateur after one round because of a sore wrist.
He also withdrew from the Buick Challenge in 1996 because of exhaustion.
"Tiger has had back pains on and off but his parents have always assumed they were growing pains," Norwood said. "But the therapist he has been working with for six months said there was some irregularities in his lower back."
Woods, 22, has already won seven tournaments, including the 1997 Masters, and nearly $4 million in less that two years on the PGA Tour. Tall and lanky, his enormously hard swing clearly puts strain on his back.
The treatment will consist of stretching, back stabilization, heat and ice, his spokesman said. He said it was not immediately clear how the injury would affect Woods' practice routine for the U.S. Open.
The U.S. Open will be played June 18-21 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, a course Woods knows well from his college career at Stanford.
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