Watney Leads Golf’s Players Event as Injured Woods Exits

May 12 (Bloomberg) -- Nick Watney shot an 8-under-par 64 to take a one-shot lead after the first round of golf’s Players championship, where Tiger Woods withdrew after nine holes because of knee and ankle injuries.

Watney’s round, which included an eagle, nine birdies, a bogey and a double bogey, was one shot off of the tournament record for 18 holes.

“I made a double and a bogey, so there’s room for improvement,” Watney told reporters at the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “But overall I felt very much in control. I wish I could have kept going, really.”

Lucas Glover, last week’s winner of the U.S. PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, is second at 7-under, one shot ahead of 54-year-old Mark O’Meara and David Toms. PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer of Germany and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell are in a group of five players a further stroke back. Defending champion Tim Clark shot 2-over 74, while Phil Mickelson is 1-under.

“I’m disappointed in myself,” Mickelson said in a televised interview. “I let a lot of shots slide, especially on the greens.”

Masters Injuries

Woods, who also withdrew from the sport’s richest event last year with a bad neck, is recovering from injuries sustained during the Masters Tournament last month. He was 6-over-par 42 through his opening nine holes when he decided to stop playing. It was Woods’s first appearance since the Masters, where he tied for fourth.

“It’s hard to put much pressure on it right now,” Woods said in a televised news conference. “It’s been a bit of a struggle.”

He skipped last week’s event because of the injury and is unsure if he will be able to play in the U.S. Open, golf’s second major tournament of the year, at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, beginning June 16.

“I don’t know,” Woods said. “Give me a few days to see what the doc says.”

The next event Woods would normally play is the Memorial Tournament in Ohio, scheduled for June 2-5.

Run of Errors

Woods, who has fallen to No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking, opened with a bogey and made a triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 fourth hole. He also dropped shots on the par-4 fifth and ninth holes and was tied for last place among players who had begun play when he walked off the course.

Woods, who has 14 major championships and held the No. 1 ranking for a record 281 weeks, hasn’t won any tournament since November 2009. That was just before a one-car accident left him with facial injuries and led to the disclosure of marital infidelity that resulted in his divorce and loss of sponsorships.

Prior to his withdrawal from the 2010 Players, the last time Woods pulled out of a tournament as a professional was at the 2006 Nissan Open in Los Angeles, when he had the flu. As an amateur, he dropped out of the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, with a wrist injury.

Woods, 35, has battled injuries since winning the 2008 U.S. Open at California’s Torrey Pines Golf Course with a broken left leg. He said he’s also being hampered by a strained Achilles tendon.

The knee injury flared up on his opening tee shot, Woods said. The Achilles strain then started to bother him, before he felt pain in his left calf.

“Everything started getting tight,” Woods said. “It’s just a whole chain reaction.”

The Players championship, which Woods won in 2001, has a purse of $9.5 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Buteau in Atlanta at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net