Watney leads as Woods withdraws, Players

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida May 13 – Nick Watney reversed his recent fortunes to seize The Players Championship first-round lead, but there was more bad luck for Tiger Woods.Watney leads at Players Championship as Woods withdraws

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida May 13 – Nick Watney reversed his recent fortunes to seize The Players Championship first-round lead, but there was more bad luck for Tiger Woods.

Watney on Thursday carded an eight-under par 64 for a one-shot lead over Lucas Glover.

Woods, however, hobbled off after nine holes because of knee and Achilles injuries in his left leg.

"I’m having a hard time walking," said Woods, who was making his first start since an equal fourth place finish at the Masters.

It was at Augusta that Woods said he suffered the "minor injury" to his leg, although it now appears it could cost him serious time from the course.

Watney launched his round with birdies in a row from the 10th. He rebounded after a double-bogey at 14 with a birdie at 15 and had five more birdies and an eagle against one more bogey on the front nine.

His performance came after he missed the cut at Quail Hollow.

"Last week in Charlotte, I got off to a bad start and I never really righted the ship," Watney said. "So today to have a bad hole like that and still play a good round is a rewarding feeling, just because I didn’t let it affect the rest of my day."

Glover, who won last week at Quail Hollow, birdied his first hole to keep that momentum going.

"Got things going," Glover said. "Just the confidence from last week, from looking up and seeing the ball where I’m looking instead of not. And that’s been an issue."

Mark O’Meara, who qualified by winning the Seniors Player Championship, was tied for third after a six-under 66.

The 54-year-old US veteran was even with David Toms, who played without a bogey.

PGA champion Martin Kaymer of Germany, who can reclaim the world number one ranking by winning or finishing alone in second, opened with a 67.

He also had a close-up look at Woods’ struggles as he was paired with the 14-time major champion and Matt Kuchar.

"Nobody really knows how much pain he was in," Kaymer said of Woods, who lagged behind his playing partners. "He was walking really slowly. He was walking behind us. But I didn’t know that it was because of pain or I just thought that he walks a little slower than me."

Kaymer was joined on 67 by US Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, South African Rory Sabbatini and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros.

US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love, a two-time Players champion carded a 68, as did Ben Crane and J.B. Holmes.

At Sawgrass’ signature 17th hole, a par-three featuring an island green, Crane’s ball was caught by a gust of wind and hit the wooden frame that surrounds the green.

It bounced clear of the water and into the gallery. His shot back hit the wood again and rolled to the front of the green. He two-putted for a bogey.

"A crazy day, a crazy game," Crane said.

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