Woods withdraws

Tiger Woods’ hopes of a third straight victory this year ended today when he withdrew from the Nissan Open in Los Angeles.

The world number one, suffering from ‘flu symptoms all week, had only just survived the halfway cut on one over par – but as more rain fell at Riviera Country Club this morning, he decided not to continue.

After two closing bogeys in his second-round 74, Woods would have had to make up 11 strokes on South African Rory Sabbatini to complete a hat-trick of wins this season.

His focus now will be on recovering fitness for the start of the Accenture world match play championship in San Diego on Wednesday. e is scheduled to play Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell in the first round of an event he has won twice in the last three years.

His decision today denied fans the chance to see him go head-to-head for the first time with the rising star of American golf JB Holmes, who won the Phoenix Open two weeks ago by seven shots in only his fourth US Tour start as a professional.

Meanwhile, one shot boosted England’s Greg Owen 16 places when the event resumed – and at last it looked as though his bid for a Ryder Cup debut had lift-off.

Despite more rain, Owen sank a 40-foot eagle putt on Riviera’s opening green and jumped from 27th place to 11th on four under par – six behind Sabbatini.

The Mansfield golfer resigned his European tour membership last season because he did not feel able to play in the required 11 tournaments while trying to establish himself in the States.

But he discovered this week that his management company had paid his membership fees for this season and that he does not now have to compete in the 11 events because he has a lower exemption category.

Five Ryder Cup spots will come off the world rankings. But in four previous events this year, Owen has not picked up a single point – finishing 62nd in the first and then missing three successive cuts.

“I woke up at the end of last week and thought ‘This is not good enough’. I’d been poorly, very poorly – so I went back to basics.

“My back’s been playing up as well [he had surgery on that in 2004], but I just need to get some momentum.”

Sabbatini led by four from France’s Thomas Levet and American Craig Barlow at the halfway stage. Lee Westwood was in joint fourth spot one further back, and Owen’s eagle put him alongside first-round leader Justin Rose who managed to add only a 74 to his opening 64 when the weather turned nasty yesterday.

Rose made a good start to trying to put the disappointment behind him, chipping to two feet on the first and joining Westwood in fourth place on five under.

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