Westwood out in front while back problems stalk Tiger Woods

Tiger failed to make the cut for the second week

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As Tiger Woods contemplates the early onset of middle age and its consequences he might console himself with a glance at the other side of the world, where age is proving no barrier to Lee Westwood.

The Englishman, at 41 two years Woods’ senior, goes into the weekend with a share of the Maybank Malaysian Open lead on 11 under par, and this after a top-10 finish on his first outing of the year in Dubai last week.

Contrast that with Woods, who for the second week in a row failed to make the cut. Indeed, after the recurrence of back spasms following a fog delay he did not even complete a round, walking off the course at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego after just 11 holes.

Since he was two over at the time, good enough for a tie for 113th place, he would have had to improve dramatically on yesterday’s resumption to progress. As ever, Woods had an excuse.

“My glutes are shutting off,” Woods said. “Then they don’t activate and it goes into my lower back. I tried to activate my glutes as best I could but they never stayed activated.”

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A grimacing Tiger Woods walks off the Torrey Pines course in San Diego, retiring after completing just 11 holes

When the glutes were functioning his game was not. Woods arrived at Torrey Pines on the back of the highest score of his career, an 82 in Phoenix, where he missed the cut by 12 in a share of last place. His confidence, like his short game, was shot.

He opened on Thursday with a bogey after knifing his chip 35 feet past the hole. His tee shot at the par-three third ended up on an adjacent tee box, resulting in another bogey. His round continued in its unique trajectory, with playing partner Billy Horschel frequently bending to collect tees and balls from holes.

A double at Woods’ 11th hole precipitated the early bath following his tee shot at the next. He had hit only one fairway all day. “I had a good warm-up session,” he said. “Then we stood out here and I got cold, and everything started deactivating again. It’s frustrating. That’s just kind of the way it is.”

No such problems for Westwood, who followed his opening 66 with a 67, signing off with a birdie at the last to lead by three with Alejandro Canizares.

“I played nicely again,” Westwood said. “I probably only hit one poor shot all day, from the middle of the fairway on the fifth hole – I was going in with a five iron and blocked it right into the water. Other than that it was very good and I felt very comfortable. I hit a lot of fairways and some good iron shots and made some nice putts. It was great to birdie two of the last three and go from one in front to three in front.”

Bernd Wiesberger led the chase on eight under par. With finishes of sixth, third and fourth in the preceding desert swing, the Austrian is an obvious threat to Westwood’s hopes of retaining the title he won by six a year ago.

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