Erik van Rooyen, Alex Gaugert

Erik van Rooyen, left, and his caddie, Lake Geneva native Alex Gaugert.

This was not the way we wanted our first Masters to end. It sucks having to withdraw after the first round. It was a sour end to what could have been a really promising week.

Erik woke up this morning with his back nagging him. It’s something that has been bothering him for three or four weeks and has been getting progressively worse. His physio is staying with us at the house we’re renting in Augusta and they worked on Erik’s back last night.

I was hopeful this morning, but it was clear early on that Erik wasn’t right. We got to the course early for our 7:30 a.m. re-start – we finished 13 holes Thursday before the first round was suspended by darkness – and Erik said, “Dude, I don’t think I’m going to be able to play.” He tried to hit a few wedges and 9-irons on the range, but they weren’t going anywhere. His 9-iron was going about 125 yards.

He said, “What do you think?” I said, “The most important thing is, can you do any further damage?” His physio assured us that he wouldn’t do any more damage to his back by trying to play – it’s more an inflammation issue that involves Erik’s hip flexors and lower back, from what I understand.

He took a few Ibuprofen, but it wasn’t meant to be. We double-bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15, our first two holes after the re-start, and bogeyed No. 17 for a 4-over 76.

There was no way he could have gone out for the second round in the afternoon. He was hitting his driver 230 yards in the air. I didn’t know what to say. I tried to lighten the mood a little on 17, after he hooked his drive and it bounced off a tree and back into the fairway. I said, “Well, at least you hit the fairway.” He hit a 3-wood up there and said, “Hey, I hit the fairway twice. Only 50 more yards to the green.”

The whole morning, if you had a nightmare, this was it. It was very stressful. It just sucked. He said, “Dude, I’m sorry.” I said, “There’s nothing to be sorry about.”

In the afternoon, he went to see an orthopedic doctor, who recommended rest. The doctor doesn’t think Erik needs surgery, but we still want to get to the bottom of it. What’s the solution? He’s a little bit worried about this long-term, and so am I.

We withdrew from next week’s tournament, The RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga. I packed up Friday night and I’m getting ready to fly to the Virgin Islands. My wife, Aubrie, is there with her parents and I’m going to meet up with them. We’ll go snorkeling and sailing and I’ll try to get my mind off golf for a few days.

Hopefully, Erik will get some rest and his back will settle down. Neither of us wants this to be a chronic problem. He’s got a long career ahead of him, and I hope to be on his bag for a long time.

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