Players Championship: Mickelson rips Sawgrass; Hoffman snaps putter in anger; Foley on Tiger

Phil Mickelson is not a fan of TPC Sawgrass

Phil Mickelson is not a fan of TPC Sawgrass and let everyone within earshot know about it after carding an opening-round 1-under 71 Thursday in the Players Championship. Mickelson’s tee shot hit the middle of the green at the par-three 13th and rolled into the water — an outcome with which Lefty was most unhappy.

Mickelson’s penalty shot hit the green as well and almost rolled into the water again but held up some 44 feet from the flag. He two-putted and wrote down a double-bogey five.

“I hit an eight-iron middle of the green. I don’t know what to say,” Mickelson told reporters after finishing the day seven shots back of leader Nick Watney. “I don’t know if it’s the set-up or the design, but I just don’t agree with that.”

The world’s No. 4 could move up to the top spot in the world rankings with a win this week and had no kind word to say about the course on which he could finally become No. 1.

“I thought the question was would it stay up on top and be by the hole or was it going to roll down in the low area?” Mickelson said. “I didn’t know it could possibly go in the water.

“When I design golf courses,” he added, “I try not to screw the player like that. I try to keep it a little bit fair.”

Don’t talk to Charley Hoffman about fair. The 2010 Deutsche Bank Champion, who would appear to be another guy not enamored of Sawgrass, had a bit of a Tiger Woods moment during his first round in Ponte Vedra Beach. After missing an 18-inch putt on the 18th, a silently fuming Hoffman snapped his putter in half — eliciting snickers from the guys in the Golf Channel booth.

Can you imagine the outrage had Woods — or current and forever bad-boy Rory Sabbatini — treated a golf club in similar fashion? Instead, the talking heads marveled at Hoffman’s strength and reran coverage of him tossing his flat stick into the pond at the 13th hole in 2008 after missing a 20-inch putt.

With the PGA Tour keeping a tight lid on all potential punishments to their athletes, we’ll never know whether Hoffman’s crime against putters will be punishable by a fine — not that plucking a few Benjamins from the wallets of millionaires would have any detrimental impact anyway. We can be fairly certain, however, that the vitriol directed toward a Woods, a Sabbatini, or a John Daly will go missing in this case, with golf observers chalking it up to Hoffman’s go-for-broke personality.

After Tiger Woods quit The Players after nine holes, his  swing coach Sean Foley said his student’s abrupt departure after carding a 6-over 42 did not catch him off guard. Woods was limping somewhat all week and experienced soreness after his Wednesday practice session, Foley told reporters Thursday.

That Woods — who had not practiced since the final round of the Masters and played nine holes Tuesday and another nine on Wednesday — had aches and pains following his practice did not seem to concern Foley, who had no timetable for the return of the world’s No. 8.

“At the end of the day if it’s been bothered before it doesn’t ever really truly heal,” the Canadian golf guru told Brian Wacker of “You can be functional and productive on it but this comes from a guy that works hard and trains hard and is a perfectionist. The guy’s created a lot of speed for a lot of time. He’s an athlete and he’s fit but you can’t overuse your body that much and not have…there’s going to be some issues.”

Woods said he re-injured the knee that he tweaked at the Masters on his first swing of the day at The Players. His knee “grabbed” him on the fourth tee, and by the end of the ninth, a limping Woods opted out.

“[The Players is] the flagship event of the PGA Tour so I think he was going to give it a try,” Foley said. “The guy’s played hurt a lot and for him to withdraw it probably had to be bothering him pretty good. It just goes to show he obviously needs more time.”

Which begs the questions — why did he attempt to play this week, and when will he be physically able to return to competition? Expectations are dim that Woods would recover enough in time for June’s U.S. Open. And those queries only begin to pierce the shroud of mystery that surrounds a winless and hobbling Woods and his near- to long-term future.

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