Steve Milne The Associated Press Tiger Woods putts during practice Thursday. He said it was the first time he swung a club since suffering back spasms Sunday.

Woods, FedEx Cup leader, says his back is fine

Published: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 - 4:23 pm

NORTON, Mass. – On and off the golf course, Tiger Woods didn't look anything like the player who four days ago dropped to knees because of back pain.

He took full, powerful swings with the driver at the TPC Boston, and he had no trouble gouging shots from the deep rough. He stooped over without hesitation to remove his tee from the ground or retrieve his ball from the cup.

Even more telling was the catch.

Sitting behind a table at his news conference Thursday, someone tossed Woods a bottle of water from about 25 feet away. The throw was a little wide. Woods instinctively twisted to his right and reached out his hand to grab it.

"The back has been … it's a lot better than obviously on Sunday," Woods said at the Deutsche Bank Championship. "It was nice to have that extra day of rest. Having the tournament start (today) certainly helps. And I've gotten treatment every day, two to three times a day. And it feels good."

It was the third time this year Woods has shown physical discomfort on the golf course. An elbow injury forced him to miss two tournaments in the early summer. He was grabbing his lower back in the final round of the PGA Championship. And then at The Barclays last week, after complaining of a stiff lower back from sleeping on a soft mattress in his hotel, Woods fell to his knees on the 13th hole in Sunday's final round after what he said was a back spasm.

His health figures to be a talking point at the Deutsche Bank Championship, at least until he gets to the 10th tree this morning to begin the tournament in the ultimate power grouping – Woods, British Open champion Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Adam Scott, who not only are Nos. 1-2-3 in the FedEx Cup, but 1-2-3 in the world ranking.

Even before he could hit his first tee shot in the pro-am, one of the amateurs asked him about his back. The question was inevitable. The answer was predictable.

"It's fine," Woods said.

The rest of the round was just like any other. There was no indication of injury, plenty of laughs and even the occasional, "Good shot, Mike," from Woods. He was speaking to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of his amateur partners.

Woods said he had planned to play nine holes, and then only chip and putt on the back nine as a precaution, just as he did last week at Liberty National.

"But it felt good, so I continued playing," he said.

Woods said the treatment was similar to that for the strain in his left elbow two months ago – electric stimulation, ice, ultrasound and massage. Still unclear was whether how much he would be able to practice before and after rounds.

Woods said that would be "day to day."

"This was the first day I hit balls or swung a club since Sunday," he said. "And it was a pleasant surprise to go out there and play without any discomfort today." Tour in Fort Wayne, Ind. – Scott McCarron took the first-round lead in the Hotel Fitness Championship, the opening event in the new four-tournament Tour Finals series.

McCarron, 48, a Sacramento native and a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, had eight birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in an 8-under-par 64 at Sycamore Hills. He's in the field on a medical exemption after finishing 250th in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings.

Most of the field is made up of top 75 players from the Tour money list and Nos. 126-200 in the FedEx Cup standings. The top 25 on the money list are assured PGA Tour cards for the 2013-14 season, while the other players are fighting for 25 additional spots.

Bud Cauley, Jason Gore, Troy Matteson and Scott Harrington were a stroke back.

"It's been a long time since I played some good golf," McCarron said. "But I still know how to. At least I haven't forgotten that part."

LPGA Tour in Portland, Ore. – Pornanong Phatlum shot an 8-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Lexi Thompson after the first round of the Safeway Classic.

Phatlum, 23, had 10 birdies and two bogeys in her afternoon round.

Thompson, 18, eagled the par-5 seventh hole and had five birdies in her bogey-free morning round.

Sacramento native Natalie Gulbis had a hole in one on the second hole and finished with a 68.

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