Tiger Woods Playing at the U.S. Open Doesn't Have a Leg to Stand on

Todd Pataky@@PittsburghToddCorrespondent IMay 13, 2011

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 12:  Tiger Woods reacts to his approach shot on the ninth 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. Woods withdrew after shooting a 42 on the front nine holes.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Tiger Woods has played nine holes of competitive golf since his tie for fourth place at the Masters.

Yesterday, on his first tee shot at this week's Players Championship, Woods tweaked the knee that had kept him off the course for several weeks—the same knee that he injured during the third round of the Masters hitting a shot from under Ike's Tree.

The same knee that he limped around on when he won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

After the knee began giving him trouble, the Achilles tendon in that same leg began to flare up. By the end of his front nine, it was clear Woods was in considerable pain.

After he resigned from the tournament Woods said, "The knee acted up, and then the Achilles followed after that, and then the calf started cramping up. Everything started getting tight, so it's just a whole chain reaction."

This is the second consecutive year that Woods has not been able to finish four rounds at the Players.

Said Woods on Thursday, "I'm having a hard time walking."

One has to wonder how that knee will feel walking the rolling hills of Congressional which, at more than 7500 yards will be the longest U.S. Open venue in history.

When he was asked how long this injury might effect his playing status, Woods said, "I don't know."

Historically, Woods does not play the week before a major, so unless he breaks with that tradition, Woods will only have three tournaments available to him to get his game into shape for the U.S. Open.

If this injury takes those three weeks away, his game, which was on shaky ground anyway, will be in no shape to compete in Bethesda.

I have no doubt he will try to play Congressional, assuming he regains the ability to walk without pain, but the real questions is: Should he?

If the condition in his knee is so poor that a single shot could cause the kind of pain we saw him in yesterday, is it possible that a couple rounds at Congressional could cause damage that would cost him the remainder of this season, as in 2008?

Maybe he should sacrifice the U.S. Open to save the remainder of the season. If he were to rest for the next six weeks, he would still have three weeks to try to get his game together for the Open Championship.

He could play in his own tournament, the AT&T National at the end of June and then play the John Deere Classic the next week. He could then take the week off before the Open Championship, as he usually does, and use that time to practice at Royal St. George's, this year's Open Championship venue.

Obviously, no one is in any position to tell the greatest player of our generation how to manage his life and his golf, but Woods means so much to the Tour that he has more to think about than just his own career.

When he took the remainder of the 2008 season off after his dramatic U.S. Open win, television ratings for the remaining majors took a hit. The Open Championship saw a drop of 11 percent from 2007, while the PGA saw viewership drop 55 percent. (Dick Friedman, Golf.com, Aug. 2008)

In these times of economic pressure in all areas of business, I'm sure the PGA Tour, as well as it's television partners, would be less than thrilled if Tiger were to injure his leg more substantially than what happened yesterday causing him to lose the rest of the 2011 season.

Is it fair to put the economic well-being of the PGA Tour all on Tiger? No, it isn't, but when you are the very face of the Tour, the most prolific winner of the last 30 years, and the man whose stated goal is to break the records of golf's most legendary major winner, you invite those kinds of responsibilities.

Tiger needs to be mindful of what his body is telling him, and as a fine athlete and dedicated gym rat, that should be no problem. Six weeks off now to save the rest of the year is a smaller price to play than trying to hurry back and losing months of prime golf season.