Back pain threatens Woods' encore

Tiger Woods' latest computer game is so realistic, apparently, it can even induce an injury. Tiger, replaced as the world No 1 by Vijay Singh, is not having the best of luck at present, not even in the virtual world, it seems. With Singh having already withdrawn as he clears up at home after Hurricane Jeanne, Woods is now also a doubt for the AmEx World Championship.

Tiger Woods' latest computer game is so realistic, apparently, it can even induce an injury. Tiger, replaced as the world No 1 by Vijay Singh, is not having the best of luck at present, not even in the virtual world, it seems. With Singh having already withdrawn as he clears up at home after Hurricane Jeanne, Woods is now also a doubt for the AmEx World Championship.

Exhausted after the Ryder Cup, Woods nevertheless went to New York last week to promote his computer game but sleeping on the plane going home left him with a back injury.

Woods hit only one tee shot here at Mount Juliet on Tuesday and played just seven holes yesterday. Otherwise he has been based in the physiotherapists' trailer.

"I slept awkwardly on the plane and it spasmed up," Tiger said. "I've never had back pain in my life so this is all new to me. I guess it is what happens when you get old."

The 28-year-old said he would have played if the tournament had started yesterday but will assess his state of health after warming up this morning. It will not help that the weather is decidedly on the damp and cold side, with today's tee-times already having been altered to a two-tee start due to a poor forecast.

"I have never been one to quit a tournament just because I'm physically sore," Woods added. "My knee was giving me problems for about a year and I played through that. But if I can't actually swing a golf club, that makes it tough to play. The ball is actually going straighter, so that's a benefit, but it is not going very far."

Woods will not want to pull out since the AmEx has had quite a beneficial effect on his bank balance. He has won the event three times out of four, and it is one of only two titles he still holds.

Tiger won in Atlanta last year and two years ago at Mount Juliet, where in perfect weather he shot 25 under par, a score unlikely to be repeated by him or anyone else this week. Having won only the Accenture Matchplay this season, Woods has one aim.

"If I can win here and the US Tour Championship that would give me three for the year, which would be a good year, if not a great one."

Woods has mentioned being a playing vice-captain for the next Ryder Cup but that might only come about if Mark O'Meara, his great friend, is appointed the US captain. Woods would like official input to the week but could take a leaf out of Colin Montgomerie's book, who told his captain, Bernhard Langer, at the opening team meeting that he was willing to do whatever was asked of him.

Tiger also suggested reducing the US qualifying period to a year - it is usually two but ran over three years for this year's match due to the postponement in 2001. He got support from Todd Hamilton, the Open champion, who would have qualified under the European qualifying system but missed out on a wild-card decision from Hal Sutton.

"From what I saw on television, it looked as if our guys were trying to find their games, and the Europeans went there in form and confident," Hamilton said. Hamilton's schedule for the last part of the year will be very different from in past years. "There are a lot of tournaments I usually watch on television that I'll be playing in." he said.

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