PONTE VEDRA BEACH, May 12, 2011 (AFP) – Tiger Woods hobbled out of the Players Championship after nine holes Thursday, the former world number one’s latest leg injuries leaving the immediate prospects for his game shrouded in doubt.
Woods had suffered a left knee and Achilles injury during the third round of the Masters in April and had not played since that tie for fourth spot at Augusta.
“The knee acted up and then the Achilles followed after that and then the calf started cramping up,” said Woods, who trailed his playing partners as they walked the course. “Everything started getting tight, so it’s just a whole chain reaction.”
Woods played his first five holes Thursday in five over — including a triple bogey at the fourth hole.
His 42 on the front nine was three shots higher than his previous worst nine-hole score at Sawgrass.
“The Achilles and knee would be sore, but you’re not worse than what icing and treatment wouldn’t do at night,” he said.
“So this morning, felt fine during warm-up, and then as I played, it progressively got worse.”
Woods said he was surprised that his leg injuries, which he had described as minor, had flared up.
“The treatment has been good,” he said. “It’s been getting better. But it just wasn’t enough.”
Swing coach Sean Foley, who has overseen the changes that Woods has struggled to implement effectively in competition, said the 14-time major champion had looked “fantastic” on the driving range.
But Woods was in trouble from the first hole, where he hit his tee shot into the trees, then came up short of the green at the bottom of a slope.
“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.”
At the fourth, Woods said, his knee “grabbed” him on his tee shot, which went left. His approach found the water and after a drop he found the water again.
Woods’ early exit marked the second straight year he departed in the middle of a round at the Players.
Last year he stopped on the seventh hole of the final round with a neck injury.
The 35-year-old has already had four surgeries on his left knee.
He had major reconstructive surgery in 2008 after limping to victory at the US Open at Torrey Pines that year on his damaged leg. He hasn’t won a major title since, his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 stalled at 14.
Woods hasn’t won a title at all since the Australian Masters in 2009, which was soon followed by the sex scandal that eventually ended his marriage.
Although he has said often that he is on the verge of a breakthrough with his latest swing changes, Woods admitted he didn’t know what would come next.
“Give me a few days to see what the docs say, and we’ll take a look at it,” he said.