Danny Willett admitted his body and mind need a rest after his disappointing season continued with a withdrawal from the prestigious Players Championship due to a back injury.
Willett, who split with long-time caddie Jonathan Smart last month, was 11 over par for the so-called “fifth major” when he retired after nine holes of the second round.
The 29-year-old from Sheffield, who has been hampered by back problems throughout his career, struggled to an opening 79 and had covered the back nine at Sawgrass in 40 before calling it a day.
Willett wrote on Twitter: “Not good to have to withdraw but swinging very poorly is putting a lot of unwanted strain on the back.. body and mind need a rest!!”
The former Masters champion has slipped from a career-high of ninth in the world to his current position of 21st after a string of poor results.
So far in 2017 he has failed to convert a three-shot 54-hole lead in Malaysia, finished 69th in the 77-man field in the WGC-Mexico Championship and was unable to reach the knockout stages of the WGC-Match Play in Austin.
Willett was also the first defending champion since Mike Weir in 2004 to miss the cut at Augusta National and made an early exit from his next event in the RBC Heritage.
It was after the opening day at Harbour Town that the split with Smart took place, with a member of Willett’s management company having to stand in for the second round.
Matt Fitzpatrick missed the cut at the Players Championship despite steadying the ship in his second round.
Fitzpatrick followed his disappointing first round 76 with a one over par 73, leaving him in a tie for 121st at Sawgrass.