SAN DIEGO -- For the third time in his past nine tournaments, Tiger Woods has withdrawn with a back injury.
Woods made it to the green on his 12th hole Thursday at Torrey Pines North Course before calling it quits in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.
Despite saying last week he had no back issues since his return to competitive golf in December, Woods started showing signs of distress early in Thursday's round, favoring his lower back.
He later blamed it on the lengthy fog delay that pushed back the start of his round by more than two hours.
"It just never loosened back up again,'' Woods said during a 90-second media session before getting into his courtesy car. "And when we went back out, it just got progressively tighter.''
Woods, who started his round on the back nine, bogeyed two of his first three holes, again showing signs of the short-game woes that plagued him last week when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open -- though he chipped in for par on his second.
But a birdie at the 16th, his seventh, and another at the first, his 10th, got him back to even par for the round.
Then he hit a series of poor shots at the par-4 second, including two pitch shots and a bad chip that set up a double-bogey. After getting to the green at the par-3 third, his 12th, he decided to withdraw, shaking hands with fellow competitors Billy Horschel and Rickie Fowler.
"It's frustrating that it started shutting down like that,'' Woods said. "I was ready to go. I had a good warm-up session the first time around. Then we stood out here and I got cold, and everything started deactivating again. And it's frustrating that I just can't stay activated. That's just kind of the way it is.''
Horschel said he quickly noticed something was wrong.
"If I didn't see it on 10 [their first hole], I saw it on 11," he said. "Then I asked him when I walked off 12 tee, I said, 'Back hurting you again?' He said, 'Spasms.' And it was unfortunate.''
Horschel said Woods lasted longer "than any other playing competitor" would have.
"He's a fighter," Horschel said. "He wants to get the reps in, he wants to play well, and he kept trying to play through it, hoping that it would loosen up and I think it was getting there. And then we had to wait again when we made the turn, and from there ... it was real tough to see him walk and even make swings.''
Meanwhile, Nicholas Thompson had an 8-under 64 on the North Course and had a 1-shot lead over Michael Thompson when play was suspended by darkness. Brooks Koepka, coming off his victory last week in the Phoenix Open, had a 66 on the North. The best score on the tougher South Course belonged to Jhonnatan Vegas, who shot 67.
Dustin Johnson, playing for the first time since his six-month leave for "personal challenges," holed out for eagle on No. 4 on the South Course as his lone highlight. He had five bogeys and was 2 over with one hole remaining.
But this day was about Woods.
It was the sixth time Woods has withdrawn from a tournament due to injury in 304 PGA Tour starts, but all of them have occurred since 2010. Last year he withdrew during the final round of the Honda Classic with back problems, and a few weeks later he had surgery to repair a disk in his lower back.
After three months away, he returned in June, but managed to play just four tournaments, only finishing four rounds in one -- the Open Championship.
He withdrew during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a back problem he said was unrelated to the surgery, then missed the cut the following week at the PGA Championship.
He then decided to shut it down for more than two months to allow his back and body to heal. He slowly resumed hitting balls in October and then returned in December at the Hero World Challenge, where he tied for last but showed promise with his swing under new instructor Chris Como.
But last week in Phoenix was a disaster for Woods.
He shot a second-round 82, the highest of his career, to miss the 36-hole cut by 12 shots. It was just the 13th time he had missed a cut worldwide in his career.
Woods said he had not experienced any of these issues at any time in recent weeks.
"Usually don't have to wait like this,'' he said. "When I'm at home practicing, it's keep going, keep going. This is different.''
Woods fell to 56th in the World Golf Ranking this week and is sure to drop further now.
He needs to be in the top 50 in order to qualify for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral from March 5-8, though it is unclear when he might return. His next scheduled event is the Honda Classic in three weeks.
On Wednesday, Woods said it was all about getting ready for the Masters in two months as he struggled through the issues with his game. Now he's got his health to worry about -- again.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.