Butch Harmon fears that Tiger Woods will never compete at the top level again after watching his former pupil withdraw before round two of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic citing back spasms.
"It's not really likely it's going to happen," Harmon told Sky Sports in a telephone chat with presenter Nick Dougherty. "Number one, he's 41-years old, he's had three back surgeries, four knees surgeries and these young kids are playing better and better.
"I would love to see him healthy and see him try and compete again but seeing him swing last week [at Torrey Pines] and then watching the swings he made this week in Dubai, you can see — and Nick, you know this from all our conversations through the years because I am a big Tiger Woods fan — how much slower his torso and his body was through the ball. It's almost like he couldn't get through it.
"His body would get around and it would stop and his hands would continue on. So are we ever going to see him play at the heights that he did back in the early 2000s? Probably not. But I think right now, the main thing he has got to do is someway get healthy. He's been off for 14 or 15 months. And he comes back and still can't even finish a tournament. To me, that's not a very good sign."
According to Bob Harig of ESPN, "Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said the problem is not related to nerve issues that have plagued the 14-time major champion over the past few years and have resulted in three surgeries, the most recent coming in August 2015.
"He says it's not the nerve pain that's kept him out for so long," Steinberg said at Emirates Golf Club.
Woods, who is believed to have been paid a seven-figure appearance fee to play in Dubai, shot an opening-round 77 that included five bogeys and no birdies — his worst score in 29 rounds at Emirates Golf Club, where he has won twice and finished in the top five on five occasions.
"At times during the first round, Woods appeared to be in distress, walking tentatively and being careful when lining up putts. This was just his third tournament start in the past 18 months. He returned in December at the Hero World Challenge and played last week at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he missed the cut."
Steinberg said Woods could move, but was unable to make a full rotation and said the hope is that Woods can still play in the Genesis Open —which benefits Woods' foundation— at Riviera Country Club in two weeks.
"Spasms are a funny thing; I'm certainly no doctor, but they come and go," Steinberg said. "And again, the fact that he feels as though it's not the nerve pain, that's very encouraging for him.
"He's had spasms before. He's got to get the spasm to calm down, from what I gather. He has his trainer here, which is good, and that's who has been working on him for the past several hours."
Steinberg would not disclose the trainer's name, but he has been with Woods at each of his tournament starts and is based in South Florida, near Woods' home.
"[Woods] talked to you guys when he got off the course yesterday and said no pain. Just not great play," Steinberg said. "And I saw him before he went to dinner last night, no pain. And it's just one of those things where it just happened. I'm not aware of anything last week, at all, or yesterday during the round."
Woods' withdrawal is a blow to an event that was suspended as a "shamal" gusting over 35 miles per hour, blew down five trees on the Majilis Course on Friday, leaving tournament officials no choice but to suspend play for the day due to safety concerns.
Ireland's Paul Dunne was one of the early finishers, adding a three over 75 to his opening 70 to sit on the projected one-over par cut line.
The Greystones man faces an anxious wait to see if those who have yet to finish their second rounds will face the same tough conditions he faced.
If the weather improves, he's likely to miss the cut. But the suspension could help Graeme McDowell, who was tied for fourth on four-under par through six holes when play was suspended.
The Portrush man battled stiff winds and flying sand to remain within five shots of South African George Coetzee, who is nine-under par after eight holes.
Sergio Garcia managed to play five holes before play was suspended, and he kept Coetzee in his sights, recording two birdies and a bogey to get to one-under par for the day and eight under overall.
His fellow countryman Nacho Elvira is currently one shot further back at six under par, with American David Lipsky at five under. Both will be amongst 21 groups of players who will return to the course at 7.30 am on Saturday morning to complete their second rounds.
Rafa Cabrera Bello and Martin Kaymer both signed for three under par rounds of 69 earlier in the day to lead in the clubhouse on four under par.
Darren Clarke, meanwhile, is level for his second round after eight holes and two shots outside the projected cut mark on three-over par.
Tournament Director, Mike Stewart said: “We've had a fairly challenging day today with the wind. We had very strong winds this morning which were gusting up to about 27 miles per hour. Those winds increased during the course of lunch time and into the early afternoon to the point where we had gusts of 36mph and beyond.
“The result was that during the last hour or so of play, before we suspended at 2.26pm, was that we had a lot of things going on out on the golf course.
"We had TV towers that had their roofs blown off. We had balls moving on the greens – one ball blew into a bunker at one stage – and five trees came down.
"It became very unsafe on the golf course and it was, therefore, unplayable. So we brought the players off the golf course, in the interests of play and safety for the spectators, as well.
“The forecast for the last couple of days is pretty good. We don't have any major issues I think. We'll have some gusting winds on the weekend but nothing like days one and two.
"Hopefully we can most of the third round completed tomorrow (Saturday). We'll still have a bit of round three to conclude on Sunday, but all being well we still have a good chance of finishing on time on Sunday afternoon.”
“Obviously I am quite happy to have taken advantage of it being on the side of the draw I am. It was a question of being patient. I think it was the right decision - we saw this one tree go down. You get a warning from the tree when it's about to collapse – it starts squeaking. I was walking under the trees hearing the squeaking and thinking, this could hit me. It's a little bit dangerous out there with the trees collapsing but hopefully, tomorrow will be better.”
“It was a little bit of a lottery. The wind was all over the place, and it was blowing really, really hard and very gusty. Obviously with trees coming down and things like that, we managed to hold on well for those first five holes, which wasn't easy. I think tomorrow will be a little bit calmer and we can get out there and try and get back on track.”
“I’m very pleased, because I was hitting a lot of good golf shots. Putting was very hard. Sometimes you hit before the gust and sometimes the gust comes without being able to predict, so it was very hard to make putts to get the ball close. But as long as you hit the fairways and greens; that was the main goal the last couple days. Not trying to make any silly mistakes, and I did that very well.
“I think if I continue my long game the way I played yesterday and today, I think I might have a good chance on Sunday. But I need to make more out of my chances around the greens. Especially yesterday, I had five pretty straightforward up-and-downs and I didn't make a birdie off them. So it could have been a very low round yesterday, and also today. So if I continue this and maybe pick up a couple here and there, I might have a chance.”
“It was sad news that Tiger couldn’t join us today. Obviously, I have a lot of sympathy for his situation because I have had a lot of problems with my back and I know how difficult it can be to manage. You just never know sometimes when you have back problems: it can be any little thing like sleeping in the wrong position; a different pillow or something as innocuous as that and you wake up and all of a sudden you have a problem. But hopefully it’s a minor issue and he can get back playing as soon as possible.”