Shock as Woods limps out of Players

For the second consecutive year, Tiger Woods has prematurely walked away from The Players Championship.

For the second consecutive year, Tiger Woods has prematurely walked away from golf’s richest tournament, The Players Championship, this time after just nine holes of Thursday’s first round at the TPC Sawgrass.

The 14-time major winner and former World No 1 limped off the course at the turn after a disastrous 6-over 42 for the first nine holes, citing ‘multiple injuries’ which included the knee and Achilles heel injuries he sustained at the Masters and which forced him to withdraw from last week’s Wells Fargo Championship.

His near career-worst 42 included his first-ever triple bogey at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course and will almost certainly have concerned golfing people wondering if they are not seeing the beginning of the end of one of the most glorious careers in the annuls of the sport.

Tiger Woods’s former coach Butch Harmon is one of them.

“I think his whole future is up in the air,” Harmon said after seeing Woods limp out of the Players Championship.

“Does it mean he needs more surgery?” Harmon added. “And if he does, who knows what is going to happen.”

Woods, who withdrew last year with a neck injury at the seventh hole in the final round, bailed out this time after a disastrous front nine, that included a triple-bogey at the par-four fourth and bogies at the first, 5th and 9th holes.

In an interview afterwards he said he re-injured his knee on the very first tee at Sawgrass today and by the time he withdrew at the 9th, was having trouble walking because of pain in his left knee and Achilles heel and cramping in his left calf.

He told the media: “The knee acted up and then the Achilles followed after that – and then the calf started cramping up,” he said.

“Everything started getting tight, so it’s just a whole chain reaction.

“I’m having a hard time walking. I felt fine during the warm-up and then as I played, it progressively got worse.

“I’m surprised. The treatment’s been good and it’s been getting better – it just wasn’t enough.”

Woods added that it probably would have been wise to quit sooner than he did, although his doctors had told him he could play.

“It’s just a matter of what we’re going to do about it. It’s hard to put muscle pressure on it right now, so it’s a bit of a struggle.”

When Woods shook hands with his playing partners, Martin Kaymer and Matt Kuchar and took the lonely walk back to the locker room, he was stone last on the leaderboard with Canada’s Stephen Ames, who like him had also won at sawgrass, and in danger of dropping out of the top 10 on the World Rankings list.

He is already down to eighth in what has been the longest winless run of his career.

England’s Brian Davis, in stark contrast, made a sparkling start and after 11 holes, was five under par and in a tie for the lead with Americans Jason Dufner and bearded Lucas Glover, the inform winner of last week’s Wells Fargo Championship.

Earlier in the week a positive Woods had said:”The knee is better, no doubt. The Achilles is better as well, so I’m here playing.

“It is what it is. The whole idea is that I peak four times a year and I’m trying to get ready for Congressional (venue for the US Open on June 16-19) and I need some playing time.

“I missed playing last week, but I really want to get out there. This is a big event.”

The 35-year-old has had four knee operations, one of them a reconstruction that kept him out of the sport for eight months after he won his 14th and last major with only one good knee at the 2008 US Open.

He has recently been having intensive treatment and taking anti-inflammatories, but when asked his expectations earlier this week he said: “Same as always, try and win the event. Nothing has changed.”

Although Woods suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and a strained left Achilles tendon while hitting an awkward shot during the third round of The Masters, he nevertheless managed to make a final day charge into the lead and scared the field’s front runners half to death before falling back to fourth and later telling the media of his latest injury problems.