PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The last two years, Tiger Woods was gone before The Players Championship ended because of injuries.
This time, it might be from his golf.
The TPC Sawgrass got the best of Woods again on Thursday when he couldn't give himself birdie chances with a wedge in his hand, had only one birdie on the par 5s and wound up with a 2-over 74.
Woods once went nearly eight years without missing the cut. Now he's in danger of missing the cut for the second straight week.
"It certainly wasn't the most positive start," Woods said. "Any kind of momentum that I would build, I would shoot myself in the foot on the very next hole. Just one of those days."
Woods is a notoriously slow starter on the Stadium Course. In his 15th year at The Players Championship, he has yet to break 70 in the opening round. In this case, however, conditions were ideal for scoring under warm sunshine, with the wind not picking up until the middle of the round.
Ian Poulter opened with a 65, and 13 other players from the morning wave shot in the 60s.
Woods was never under par at any time in his round, and he traded bogeys with birdies around the turn. From a fairway bunker on the 15th, he pulled it left of a bunker and took two shots to reach the green. After a birdie on the island-green 17th, Woods was in the fairway on the 18th when he came up short and to the right, leading to another bogey.
Perhaps the most troublesome part of the round occurred when he was 108 yards away on the first hole and wound up with a bogey. His wedge came up short and with spin, catching the slope and rolling off the green, and he took three putts from there. After his lone birdie on a par 5 at No. 2, he went long of the green going after a back pin and was left a difficult up-and-down. Another bogey.
There was a collection of everything that wasn't quite right — poor wedges from the fairway, mediocre chipping, not making nearly enough putts.
"I just didn't score," Woods said. "The best shot I hit all day was on 3, and it ended up in a spot where I really couldn't play from. It was frustrating in the sense that my good shots ended up in bad spots, and obviously, my bad shots ended up in worse spots."
Woods withdrew in the middle of the final round at the 2010 Players Championship with what turned out to be a neck injury. A year ago, he stopped after a 42 on the front nine with an injury to his Achilles tendon that kept him out of golf until August.
At least he has his health. Now if he can only find some form.
It extends a peculiar stretch for Woods — withdrawing from Doral in the middle of the final round with tightness in his Achilles tendon, a five-shot win at Bay Hill two weeks later, his worst performance as a pro at the Masters (tie for 40th), then a missed cut by one shot at the Wells Fargo Championship.
When asked the problem between taking his game from the practice range to the first tee, Woods replied, "It's golf."
"Just be patient with it. Just keep plugging along," he said. "Obviously, in the last few months I've put together some good rounds, won a couple of tournaments. So it's there. I just need to continue doing it."
The goal is to be able to continue doing it on the weekend, and he'll need a good round Friday to simply make the cut.