Tiger Woods must ponder his next steps as he prepares for the bulk of the 2011 major championship season.
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL—Tiger Woods withdrew from THE PLAYERS Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass this morning after recording a six-over-par front-side 42 on a bum wheel.
Tiger sandwiched bogeys on the par-four opening hole and the par-five ninth around a triple-bogey seven on the fourth and another bogey on hole No. 5. Woods parred the remaining five holes and failed to record a single birdie in his first competitive round since last month's Masters Tournament.
Tiger hoped to use this weekend's TPC as a barometer of his game—and his sore knee—as he begins preparations for next month's U.S. Open at Congressional. However, today's poor play and early exit do not bode well for the 14-time major winner's mental state or physical condition.
Graeme McDowell, the reigning U.S. Open champion, tweeted shortly after Woods left the course, "Just saw Tiger come limping by me in the locker room. Considering he's supposed to be on the course I'm guessing that's not a good sign....."
Bubba Watson, a two-time winner on tour this year, has been critical of Tiger's game recently, insinuating that Woods may have lost the confidence and focus that made him seem so invincible on the course for the past decade and a half.
"I'll just go ahead and say it. I think Tiger's going the wrong way," Watson told the media last week in Charlotte.
With Tiger gone, who should win THE PLAYERS?
"I think he's so mental right now with his swing. Just go ahead and play golf. He used to hit shots, he used to bomb it, he used to do all that stuff."
"In 1997, I think he did pretty good. He won the Masters by 48 shots, whatever he won it by."
Woods went winless for the first time in his career in 2010 following the infamous sex scandal that wrecked his marriage, his reputation and his SUV and helped precipitate the longest winless drought of his career, which just became one tournament longer.
Mr. Woods missed the previous four tournaments on the PGA schedule following a fourth-place tie at the 2011 Masters, in which he injured his left knee and Achilles tendon during the execution of a brilliant shot from the pine straw. The low-hanging branch of an Augusta pine forced Woods into an awkward, semi-squatting stance, which presumably placed a significant strain on the formerly top-ranked golfer's lead leg during the offending swing.
Mr. Woods most recently withdrew from last week's Wells Fargo Championship field prior to the tournament's start, citing his still-healing knee injury as the reason for his absence from the Charlotte, NC event.
At the time of Tiger's withdrawal, Jason Dufner and Brian Davis were tied for the lead after each posting scores of 32 going out before being bested by last weekend's winner, Lucas Glover, who posted a front-nine score of 31 highlighted by an eagle at the par-five ninth.