Willett shot 79 in the opening round and played the back nine on Friday before withdrawing because of injury

Danny Willett pulled out of the Players Championship midway through his second round because of a back injury, saying his “body and mind need a rest”.

Willett, 29, was 11-over-par for his 27 holes at Sawgrass in Florida.

The 2016 Masters champion tweeted: “Not good to have to withdraw but swinging very poorly is putting a lot of unwanted strain on the back.”

Willett, who has a history of back injuries, has missed four cuts in nine tournaments this season.

He began his second round at the Players with a bogey on the 10th but got that stroke back on the next hole and recorded successive four pars before a dropped shot at 16 was followed by a triple-bogey six on the infamous 17th.

He made par on the 18th – his ninth hole of the day – to go out in 40 strokes and appear destined to miss the cut.

The Sheffield-born player’s poor form – including becoming the first defending champion to miss the cut at the Masters since Mike Weir in 2004 – has resulted in his world ranking dropping to 21st.

He also split with friend and long-time caddie Jonathan Smart after a disagreement during April’s RBC Heritage event.

Willett’s next scheduled start is the BMW PGA Championship, the key event on the European Tour schedule, in two weeks’ time.

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