Monday, September 5, 2011

Tiger reinjures knee, withdraws from Players after nine holes

Monday, September 5, 2011

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ? The opening tee shot for Tiger Woods in Thursday's first round of the Players Championship sailed far left of the fairway.

  • Tiger Woods and caddie Steve Williams leave the course after nine holes during the first round of The Players Championship on Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

    By Chris O'Meara, AP

    Tiger Woods and caddie Steve Williams leave the course after nine holes during the first round of The Players Championship on Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

By Chris O'Meara, AP

Tiger Woods and caddie Steve Williams leave the course after nine holes during the first round of The Players Championship on Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

It also reinjured his left knee.

Woods, who withdrew from The Players Championship last year in the last round with 12 holes to play because of a neck injury, shook the hands of playing partners Matt Kuchar and Martin Kaymer after play was completed on the ninth hole, saying he couldn't continue.

Woods, who was limping and said he had a hard time walking the front nine of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, struggled from the outset and was 6 over par when he withdrew, citing multiple injuries to his left leg.

"I was just trying to draw that ball out there just a little bit. I pushed forward, and you know it just didn't feel good," Woods said about his first tee shot. "The knee acted up and then the Achilles' followed after that and then the calf started cramping up. Everything started getting tight, so it's just a whole chain reaction. This morning, I felt fine during warm-up, and then as I played, it progressively got worse.

"I'm having a hard time walking."

Woods injured his left knee, which has been through four operations, and his left Achilles' in the third round of the Masters while hitting a shot from an awkward lie off pine straw. He didn't practice for 28 days and first started hitting golf balls Monday. He played his first nine holes since the Masters on Tuesday.

Woods said his doctors gave him the OK to play.

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

Where he'll play next is anyone's guess now. He likely would have played in the Memorial in three weeks, then the U.S. Open two weeks after that.

"I don't know," what's next, with his knee and schedule, Woods said. "I just finished nine holes. Give me a few days to see what the docs say, and we'll take a look at it."

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said Woods and his doctors are assessing what the next steps are and that an MRI may not be mandatory.

Woods looked nothing like the former world No. 1 he once was. He made bogey on the first, hit two balls into the water on the fourth to make triple bogey, made another bogey on the fifth and finished with yet another bogey on the ninth. He hit just one green and had just one birdie putt.

The 42 Woods shot on Thursday was not his worst nine-hole score as a professional. He has shot 43 four times, the most recent coming in last year's Wells Fargo Championship on the back-nine at Quail Hollow in the second round.

The withdrawal was Woods' fourth in his professional career — the past two Players Championships, the 2006 Northern Trust Open and the 1998 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Only the two WDs at The Players, however, has he walked out mid-round. He also withdrew from the 1995 U.S. Open as an amateur.

Woods had only played 17 rounds of golf on the Tour this season before Thursday. He also played four rounds in Dubai on the European Tour.

Woods said he was surprised the leg acted up.

"The treatment's been good. It's been getting better," he said. "It just wasn't enough. It's hard to put muscle pressure on it right now, so it's a bit of a struggle."

Swing coach Sean Foley, who began working with Woods at last year's PGA Championship, knew something was wrong when he caught up with his pupil on the eighth hole and noticed he was walking 20 yards behind playing partners Matt Kuchar and Martin Kaymer.

"It is what it is," Foley said. "People don't typically like that comment, but that's what we're dealing with. The guy has created a lot of speed for a long time, and he's an athlete and he's fit. If you went to a Tour de France race or if you went to the Olympics, there's not anyone competing who doesn't have an injury. You can't overuse your body that much and not have issues."

Foley said Woods' recent injuries have nothing to do with his new swing.

"Regardless of what people say, these are historical things," he said. "This doesn't come from any mechanical things we're working on or anything like that. It has nothing to do with him having his weight on the left side. At the end of the day, if it's been bothered before, it never truly ever heals. This comes from a guy who works hard and trains hard and is a perfectionist."

Good friend Mark O'Meara, who played with Woods in both practice rounds and had dinner with him Wednesday, said he was shocked when he learned that Woods pulled out.

"I just saw that he was 4 or 5 over through 6 holes, and I'm like, wait a minute, I just played with him yesterday morning and he played great on the back nine," said O'Meara, who shot 66 to move into contention. "Not great, but he was well on his way, in my opinion, knowing him as well as I do.

"I sent him a text this morning after I saw he withdrew just to check on him and let him know I was concerned for him, and he said he's just not doing so well, not feeling so well. I don't know how bad it is. Obviously it's pretty bad. But he needs to get that fixed, because you know, I know how much he loves the game, and I know how badly he wants to be competing, and the game needs him. I mean, he's great for this game."

A chronology of Woods' injuries:

May 12, 2011 — Withdraws after nine holes at The Players Championship after a 42, his worst nine-hole score at the TPC Sawgrass. Woods had a noticeable limp over the final hour. "The knee acted up, and then the Achilles followed after that, and then the calf started cramping up. Everything started getting tight," he said.

April 26, 2011 — Reveals he has a minor sprain of medial collateral ligaments in left knee and minor strain of his left Achilles, and he will miss the Wells Fargo Championship.

Dec. 11, 2010 — Has cortisone shot in his right ankle because of lingering soreness in his Achilles.

May 9, 2010 — Withdraws on the seventh hole of the final round at The Players Championship with what he fears is a bulging disk. He later says it was inflammation of a joint in his neck. He doesn't miss a start, returning a month later at the Memorial.

December 2008 — Ruptures his right Achilles' tendon.

June 24, 2008 — Eight days after winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in a 19-hole playoff, has reconstructive surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that also repairs cartilage damage. He misses the rest of the 2008 season and is out for eight months.

June 2008 — Is advised in the weeks before the U.S. Open that he has two stress fractures in his left tibia and should expect to be on crutches for three weeks and out of golf for three more.

April 15, 2008 — Two days after his runner-up finish at the Masters, has arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. Decides against repairing ligament to avoid longer rehabilitation and to be able to play the other three majors. Misses Quail Hollow, The Players Championship and the Memorial.

July 2007 — Ruptures the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he takes a misstep while running on a golf course. He wins five of the last six tournaments he plays, including the U.S. PGA Championship.

Dec. 12, 2002 — Has surgery to remove fluid inside and around the anterior cruciate ligament. Misses the season-opening Mercedes Championship for the first time, and returns 10 weeks later to win the Buick Invitational.

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