Tiger Woods Withdraws from Players: Is This Rock Bottom?

John BurkeContributor IMay 12, 2011

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 12:  Tiger Woods hits a tee shot on the fifth hole during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship held at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 12, 2011 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Just this week, I wrote that things could not get much worse for Tiger Woods. I guess I learned my lesson to never tempt the golfing gods.

Today, not only did things get worse for Tiger Woods, but they got painful-to-watch, vomit-inducing bad. 

In his first tournament since the Masters, Woods was predicted by many to be a factor in this weeks The Players Championship. Those predictions lasted exactly one hole. 

From the beginning, it was evident that Woods was not healthy. He walked with a noticeable limp from his opening tee shot, sometimes using his clubs to support himself.

Needing 42 shots on the first nine holes at TPC Sawgrass leaves Woods' fans with two thoughts. 

First, Woods' injuries are worse than even he is willing to admit. 

"I felt good this morning and fine during warm-up, and then as I played it got progressively worse," Woods explained before heading to his car. 

It is hard to imagine feeling fine during warm-ups and then only minutes later walking with a pronounced limp, struggling to maintain club-head speed. Not that stranger things have not happened, but it's simply not believable that Woods was "fine" enough to be playing golf. And while I am not calling Tiger Woods a liar, he must be delusional if he actually believed he was fine on the range. 

The second thought is that Woods' game may be on a permanent down-fall.

This idea not only scares me, it shakes the world as I know it. While that may sound dramatic, you must realize that my first memory of any sport is Woods' 1997 Masters Victory. But that victory was 15 long years ago, and much has changed. 

While it is true that many golfers have won well past the age of 35, it is also true that the game is becoming younger. If you need proof of that, Google the name Matteo Manassero. 

On top of that, Woods is currently on a steady fall down in world ranking. With the game Woods has shown us this year, it is hard to imagine him ever making the climb back up. And while I would never doubt Tiger Woods' drive and talent, if he is going to make an assault on Jack Nicklaus' major record and the "greatest player ever" title, he needs to start that attack now. 

Remember, it was just last year when Woods withdrew from the same tournament after six holes with a neck injury. When that happened, many thought Woods could not sink much lower. But that was a full year ago; between now and then, Woods has changed swing coaches, changed homes and failed to win a tournament. 

So a withdraw in the same tournament a year later tells us one thing: Woods has not hit rock bottom—it will get worse. 

The question is if he will ever get better.