Limping, Tiger Woods Withdraws After 9 Holes

Tiger WoodsFor the second straight year, Tiger Woods has withdrawn from the Players Championship during the first round. Last year, he had neck problems. This year, it might be more concerning.

On the first tee shot of the day Thursday, with the sun peeking over the small scoreboard to the right of the tee, Woods tried to hit a draw down with a 3-wood and felt something give in his left knee — the same knee that was surgically repaired two years ago after his victory at the United States Open at Torrey Pines.

The knee then affected his Achilles’ tendon, which he had torn two years ago, and his calf muscle began to cramp, and he struggled to shoot a six-over-par 42 on the front nine before he was forced to withdraw.

It was Woods’s toughest nine holes in his last 14 starts. He has shot 43 for nine holes on four other courses.

“I was trying to draw that ball out there just a little bit; I pushed forward and just didn’t feel good,” Woods said.

He added: “Everything started getting tight. It was like a whole chain reaction.”

Woods struggled through the first nine holes, bogeying the first after his foot slipped in the pine straw while he was hitting his second shot. He missed the green, chipped on, and missed a 20-footer for par.

He failed to birdie the second hole, hit the third green and two-putted for par, then pulled his 3-wood off the fourth tee, missing the fairway by some 30 yards to left in the deep rough on a mogul, 133 yards from the green.

His ball was sitting down, and he caught the shot heavy, moving it 116 yards into the moat surrounding the green. Forced to drop, he caught his pitch thin, bounced it off the railroad ties back into the moat, pitched on, and made a long putt for a triple-bogey 7.

By this time, he was limping noticeably, favoring his left knee whenever he stepped and keeping his weight off it whenever he stood. He bogeyed the fifth hole, saved par on his next three and bogeyed the ninth after hitting a 290-yard 5-wood downwind and through the back bunker.

“I’m having a hard time walking,” he said when asked to rate his pain on a scale from 1 to 10. Asked if he had to cut any practice sessions short because of similar pain, Woods replied, “It would be sore, both Achilles’ and knee would be sore. Nothing that icing and treatment wouldn’t do at night.

“This morning, felt fine during warm-up and during play, it progressively got worse.”

Woods said he was surprised he had to withdraw.

“Yeah, actually,” he said. “As I said, treatment’s been good. It’s been getting better. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t good enough.”

Asked if would have been wiser to come off earlier, Woods replied, “Probably.”

By the seventh hole, Woods was trailing well behind his playing partners as he worked his way slowly down the fairway. By the time he walked across the bridge at the ninth hole, there was little question that he would not be going on. And when he removed his glove and gave it to his caddie, Steve Williams, beside the ninth green, all doubt was gone.

As he stood and answered questions, Woods did not once shift his weight off his right side. He said he did know that he had reinjured himself, but did not know the degree and would not know until consulting with doctors who, he said, had given him the O.K. to play.

“They said I could play,” Woods said. “The more rest I get, the better it would be, obviously. Obviously, it’s a big event. I want to come back for it and play and, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish.”

When he will be able to start again is the question now, one that will not be answered for days.

Posted by: LARRY DORMAN

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