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"My man is hurting," Arjun Atwal, a close friend and frequent practice partner, said last week at the Memorial. "He's in a boot, he's on crutches. Not doing good."
The most recent of four surgeries on Woods' left knee came a week after the 2008 U.S. Open, which Woods won in a playoff for his 14th major. He had reconstructive surgery and was out for eight months, then returned and won seven times the following year before his personal life imploded on Thanksgiving night in 2009.
Woods was tied for the lead at the turn in the final round of the Masters this year and wound up in a tie for fourth. But he said he hurt his knee and Achilles' hitting from an awkward stance in the pine straw on the 17th hole of the third round at Augusta National, and he was limping toward the finish on Sunday. He described it as a "minor injury" in April.
Woods sat out the Wells Fargo Championship, then tried to play in The Players Championship, only to withdraw at 6-over par after nine holes because of what he called a chain reaction of pain in his knee, Achilles' and eventually his calf.
He later said he tried to come back too early.
"My gut feeling is I think it's a good thing for Tiger," said Mark O'Meara, who no longer spends as much time around Woods. "You're throwing yourself back in the fray at a major when you haven't really played besides Augusta -- you can't count The Players. To be prepared to do that, you've got to have some reps, and not reps at home.
"He drives the needle and he always will," O'Meara said. "I'd rather see him come back when he's ready. And if he's not prepared, that he shouldn't come back."
The first time Woods missed a cut in the major was the 2006 U.S. Open, his first tournament in two months as he coped with the death of his father.
The U.S. Open will be the 12th straight major without Woods winning, the longest drought of his career. He remains four majors short of the 18 professional majors that Nicklaus won, the ultimate benchmark in golf.
"I still have plenty of time, and I feel that going forward, I'm excited about playing major championships and playing golf again," Woods said two weeks ago while promoting the AT&T National. "I just want to be healthy and solid, and I feel like I can give it a go."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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