Woods only chipped and putted for the final nine holes at Liberty National on Wednesday.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — If you don't like reminders of the frailty of Tiger Woods' physical condition, divert your eyes.
Woods cut his pro-am short on the eve of the Northern Trust Open on Wednesday to be cautious with his surgically repaired back. After playing a full front nine, he opted to only chip and putt on the back side at Liberty National.
"Just feeling stiff, being smart about it," Woods said after the truncated round, though it should be noted that he had a smile on his face and remained upbeat during his remarks.
This is the second time in as many events that his back has become a story—he also complained of stiffness at last month's British Open, where he moved gingerly and missed the cut with a two-day total of six over par.
"As I said to you guys, this is how it is. Some days I'm stiffer than others."
Woods is about to embark on what will be a three-tournament-in-three-weeks stretch, if all goes to plan. Beyond this week's Northern Trust, the first of three FedEx Cup playoff events, he has committed to play next week's BMW Championship at TPC Boston and will ostensibly defend his title at the Tour Championship, should he qualify. Despite only playing four times since Augusta and just 10 events so far this season—the fewest of anyone currently in the top 40—Woods ranks 28th in the FedEx Cup standings entering the playoffs, and the top 30 after Boston will advance to the season finale.
If that happens, it would be the first time Woods plays three events in a row this season, as he's made a conscious effort to avoid overextending himself as he did in 2017-18.
"Last year, I learned a lot by playing too much," Woods said. "Coming back from my procedure and not really knowing what to expect, I pushed it pretty hard.
"I vowed I would never do that again. I've cut back the schedule quite a big, and that's the challenge now...Now we've got a more condensed season, and it's trying to figure out how to stay sharp, practice and also have my back feeling good all the time. It's a challenge."
The 15-time major champion will begin his first tournament since the Open at 7:43 a.m. Thursday alongside Scott Piercy and J.T. Poston, who won last week's Wyndham Championship. The top 70 players advance to the BMW Championship, so Woods is all but assured of qualifying even if he misses the cut here.