Tiger Woods reflects on a question during a news conference at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Monday, April 5, 2010. The tournament begins Thursday, April, 8. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla . -- Tiger Woods stood behind the ninth green on Thursday and wondered aloud at what had just transpired.
On a day in which good shots were few and far between, not to mention few and far afield, he has just bombed his second shot on the par-5 hole over the green on the fly and into an oak tree behind the green. It was a towering shot that was seemingly in the air forever.
He handed the club back to caddie Steve Williams and said, "I just hit it 290 with a 5-wood?"
Even the rare good shots turned out porrly for the fading, former world No. 1 in the first round of the Players Championship, and he finished with a bogey before withdrawing for the second consecutive year.
A moment latrer, he handed his golf glove to Williams and his scorecard to playing partner Martin Kaymer and told them he was punching out after nine holes.
"I am having a hard time walking," Woods said.
Not to mention a difficult time scoring. He shot 6-over 42 on the front nine and was tied for last when he decided to head to the TPC Sawgrass locker room, visibly limping.
It was downhill from the start for Woods, who pulled up lame after hitting is first tee shot of the day, a draw that missed the fairway. Woods said that as he pushed into the 3-wood, his knee began to throb. His second shot was no better. He was forced to stand in the pine straw to make his second swing of the day. That's the same type of lie he faced that landed him in his current predicament -- Woods injured a knee and Achilles hitting a ball out of the pine straw in the final round four weeks ago at Augusta National.
This time, Woods lost traction on his downswing and instantly muttered, "freaking foot slipped," as he hit the shot fat and the ball came up well short of the green. He made bogey and the early tone was set.
"The pine straw didn't help because the foot slipped," he said afterward.
After muffing a flop shot on the easy second hole and settling for a par, Woods hit two balls in the water on the fourth, where the green is fronted by a pond, including ann awful wedge shot from 45 yards in a closely mowed drop zone that caromed off the wooden bulkhead surrounding the green clanged into the middle of the hazard.
The knee was not the issue. That was pure rust and poor execution. He chunked three wedges in nine holes, including on the ninth.
"The pitch shots weren't [because of the injury]," he said. "Those were just bad shots. Awful."
Woods eventually found the green and made an 18-footer for a triple bogey at the fourth. Moments later, he grimaced in apparent pain after he badly missed the fifth green, from 160 yards out and the middle of the fairway, and made another bogey, dropping to 5 over through five holes and into dead last among those in the morning wave in 72nd place.
After his tee shot found the fairway at the sixth, his approach from 123 yards plopped into a greenside bunker, though he managed to save par. On one of the trickiest short-game tracks on the PGA Tour, Woods only found one of the first six greens in regulation.
In 13 career starts, Woods had never missed the cut at Sawgrass or posted a score higher than 75. He withdrew after seven holes on Sunday last year with a neck issue.
Because of the leg injuries, Woods didn't practice or play for four weeks heading into this week's event, and only played nine holes at Sawgrass on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation. He has played 16 competitive stroke-play rounds in the States all season.
Woods dropped to No. 8 in the world ranking this week, his lowest position since before he won his first Masters title in April, 1997.
As though Woods didn't look lost enough, his playing partners, Matt Kuchar and Martin Kaymer, are two of the steadiest players on the planet and were both 2 under through the first six holes, seven shots better than Woods.