The Players Championship started Thursday without showing any clue as to what will happen along the way. It was probably the shortest tournament in Tiger Woods’ career. Ben Crane’s attempt to shot over an island wounded up on dry land, while the shot onto the green of Phil Mickelson rolled into the water.
Woods limped off the ninth green, made a detour to a fitness trailer and headed to the parking lot. On the side of the trailer was painted “Is knee pain holding you back?”
This is Woods’ first tournament since the Masters where had an Achilles and a “minor injury” to his left knee. But nine holes into the tournament and a 42 on the front nine, Woods withdrew and said he could not go on.
“I’m having a hard time walking,” he said.
The game however looked easy for Nick Watney and some other players although this crazy course is rarely easy for the golfers.
Watney had a one-shot lead over Lucas Glover as he opened with an 8-under 64. More impressive than his best Swagrass score was the double bogey he got early in his round.
“Last week in Charlotte, I got off to a bad start and I never really righted the ship,” Watney said. “So today to have a bad hole like that and still play a good round is a rewarding feeling, just because I didn’t let it affect the rest of my day.”
Glowerm, who won at the Wells Fargo Championship last wee ending a two-year drought since he won the title in the US Open, was atop the leaderboard.
The 54-year old Mark O’Meara who won the Senior Players Championships which qualified him for this event, opened with a 66. O’Meara scored that low on this course but that was when Woods was still in high school
“Even when I went to dinner with Tiger last night, my wife Meredith said, ‘How’s Mark hitting it?’ He says, ‘Short.’ OK, yeah, I’m not 32 and strong,” O’Meara said. “But I hit it far enough.”
PGA champion Martin Kaymer had a 67 for the opening, along with US Open champions Graeme McDowell and Rory Sabbatini. If Kaymer finishes alone in second this week, then he can regain the world’s number one crown.
Kaymer was in the group with Woods and Matt Kuchar but only the two of them was left when Woods left.
“Nobody really knows how much pain he was in,” Kaymer said. “He was walking really slowly. He was walking behind us. But I didn’t know that it was because of pain or I just thought that he walks a little slower than me.”