Woods Limps Off Course, His Future Uncertain

Woods Limps Off Course, His Future Uncertain.

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Tiger Woods’s sudden, unexpected withdrawal from the Players Championship on Thursday because of nagging pain from his surgically repaired left knee will have ripple effects well beyond this week.

Enlarge This ImageChris O’Meara/Associated Press

Tiger Woods’s knee pain was evident on his second shot at No. 9, his last hole before withdrawing from the Players Championship on Thursday. He was at six-over-par 42.






Enlarge This ImageHans Deryk/Reuters

Tiger Woods hobbled down the fairway on No. 4 after hitting his ball into the water.

Woods, 35, who still moves the needle more than any other golfer in the world, is now questionable for the Memorial Tournament in three weeks and is certainly no lock to be ready for the United States Open a month from now at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

There is no window into the severity of his injury. Moments after he withdrew following a bogey at the ninth hole for a score of six-over-par 42, Woods said he could not tell whether he had aggravated the strain to his medial collateral ligament or to his Achilles’ tendon. He hurt both while hitting an awkward shot from under the Eisenhower tree at the Masters last month.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just finished nine holes. Give me a few days to see what the docs say, and we’ll take a look at it.”

Bob Prichard, a sports biomechanics expert and the president of the Somax Performance Institute in suburban San Francisco, said that he believed that Woods’s current knee problems were a result of his incorrect spine angle and that a video breakdown revealed that Woods’s new swing was causing it.

“His swing is measurably worse in every way and is putting extra strain of his left knee,” said Prichard, who has worked with 44 Olympic gold medalists and has studied the golf swing extensively. “More than ever, he is pushing his hip toward the target, outside his left foot, and the stress is going into his left knee, actually pushing the femur down on to the tibial plate.”

Woods began working with the instructor Sean Foley at the P.G.A. Championship last year. He has not won a tournament since November 2008, when he was working with Hank Haney. His best finish this year was at the Masters, where he finished tied for fourth.

Woods was limping Thursday almost from the time he mis-hit his opening tee shot. He pulled his 3-wood shot into the left rough while trying to hit a draw and immediately felt a twinge in his knee.

“The knee acted up and then the Achilles’ followed after that and then the calf started cramping up,” Woods said. “Everything started getting tight, so it’s just a whole chain reaction.”

This chain reaction began with the same knee that was surgically repaired twice in 2008 by the orthopedic surgeon Thomas Rosenberg. The first operation was an arthroscopic one after the Masters that April, and the second was a reconstruction of Woods’s anterior cruciate ligament in June after his stirring United States Open victory at Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Dr. Michael Leighton, an orthopedic surgeon in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., who has operated on professional athletes and numerous golfers, said that Woods’s pain while walking could be attributed to probable bruising of the tibial plateau or the medial femoral condyle resulting from the M.C.L. sprain at the Masters.

“It’s purely conjecture on my part, sort of common things happen commonly,” said Leighton, adding that one would have to see the results of Woods’s magnetic resonance image test to be sure. “If you looked at his M.R.I., that’s probably what you’d see.

“People can stand with an M.C.L. sprain, and people can stand with an A.C.L. sprain or tear, but it is the bone bruise that prevents them from putting the full weight down, or jogging or turning on to that side. If he has a bone bruise, that’s legitimately painful.”

Speculation regarding the severity of Woods’s condition will abound. After the reconstruction surgery in 2008 — the fourth operation on Woods’s left knee since 1994 — Rosenberg said in a statement that he did not think it would have “any long-term effects on his career.”

Three years later, Woods was wincing after hitting a tee shot on the fourth hole with a 3-wood that flew into the grassed-over moguls some 30 yards wide of the fairway, leading to a triple-bogey 7. He did not say anything to Matt Kuchar or Martin Kaymer, his playing partners, until after the ninth hole.

But Kuchar, who shot an opening-round 69, said he knew something was wrong.

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