The future looks bleak - Woods has not won a tournament for almost 18 months [GALLO/GETTY]

Tiger Woods walked away from the lucrative Players Championship in Florida on Thursday, citing knee injury.

Attempting to play after injuring his left knee and Achilles at the Masters, Woods said he was having difficulty walking by the end of the nine and that he first felt it on the first tee, where he hit his drive left.

Woods shot a 42 on the front nine, walking some 20 yards behind his playing partners and with a limp that became more noticeable with each hole he played.

Sub-par performance

After bogeying the first hole, Woods found water twice at the par-four fourth where he ended with a triple bogey.

Further bogeys came on the fifth and ninth holes for the former world number one.

He handed his card to PGA champion Martin Kaymer, then walked back to inform Matt Kuchar that he was leaving early for the second straight year.

"I'm having a hard time walking,'' Woods said.

It was his first competition since the Masters, where Woods hurt his left knee and Achilles while hitting from pine straw in the third round.

He skipped the tournament last week to give his leg time to heal, and said on Tuesday that it was better.

But from the opening tee shot at the TPC Sawgrass, he looked as bad as he ever has.

"The knee acted up and then the Achilles followed after that, and then the calf started cramping up,'' Woods said.

"Everything started getting tight, so it's just a whole chain reaction.''

Woods had looked in good form when he played nine holes of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, and said after the second day of practice that he had only "minimal'' swelling.

This is the second straight year Woods has withdrawn in the middle of the round at the Players Championship. He stopped on the seventh hole of the final round last year with what turned out to be a neck injury.

Woods already has had four operations on his left knee. 

Source: Agencies