PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods withdrew after nine holes at The Players Championship on Thursday because of leg injuries that sent him limping off the course toward a future that is murkier than ever.
Woods shot a 42 on the front nine, walking some 20 yards behind his playing partners, holding his club for support and limping more noticeably with each hole.
After taking a bogey on the par-5 ninth, he handed his card to PGA champion Martin Kaymer, then walked back to inform Matt Kuchar that he was leaving early for the second straight year.
“I’m having a hard time walking,” Woods said.
It was his first competition since the Masters, where Woods said he hurt his left knee and Achilles’ tendon while hitting from pine straw in the third round. He described it as a “minor injury” and skipped the tournament last week to give his leg time to heal.
Woods had said his leg felt better. But from the opening tee shot at the TPC Sawgrass, he looked as bad as he ever has.
“The knee acted up and then the Achilles followed after that, and then the calf started cramping up,” Woods said. “Everything started getting tight, so it’s just a whole chain reaction.”
The first hole could not have gone any worse.
He pulled his opening tee shot into the pine trees, leaving him a stance in the pine straw. Then he came up short of the green, his ball perched at the bottom of a steep bank that force another awkward stance.
“The pine straw didn’t help because my foot slipped, my left foot slipped,” Woods said. “It obviously would have probably felt better if it would have held.”
The rest of his nine holes was not much better, especially at No. 4. He said his knee “grabbed me” on a tee shot that sailed well left into the mounds, and then came two shockers.
He hit his next shot into the water, took a penalty drop and his short pitch to a back pin hit the bulk head and went back into the water. He had to make a 20-foot putt for triple bogey.
The 42 was his second-worse score for nine holes in his PGA Tour career. He had a 43 on three occasions, the last time on the back nine of the final round at the Bay Hill Invitational in 2007.
This is the second straight year Woods has withdrawn in the middle of the round at The Players Championship. He stopped on the seventh hole of the final round last year with what turned out to be a neck injury.
Woods already has had four operations on his left knee.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)