Commish: No pressure on Tiger to play

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Given his hasty exit from TPC Sawgrass and the fact that he clearly had little preparation for The Players Championship, Tiger Woods' withdrawal after just nine holes has led to speculation that he showed up at the tournament as a favor to the PGA Tour.

Not so, said commissioner Tim Finchem.

In fact, it was clear by Finchem's reaction that he was not happy about such an insinuation.

"It's always important for Tiger to be part of the tour, because he's Tiger Woods. But the idea that we would pressure him to play is ludicrous," Finchem said in an interview that aired on CNBC. "We don't pressure any player to play the tournament," which is regarded as the PGA Tour's signature event.

"In this case the suggestion is somehow he was hurt and we got him to play anyway. Tiger doesn't [play] a tournament unless he thinks he can win," Finchem said. "I was on the range with him Tuesday, I watched him hit balls. He practiced that day, he practiced Wednesday hard. And he tweaked it yesterday. So, non-issue."

What gave some life to the conspiracy theory, however, was the fact that Woods -- in one of the rare instances -- did not appear ready to play or win. He limped off the course after shooting 6-over 42 on the front nine.

"The knee acted up and then the Achilles followed after that and then the calf started cramping up," Woods said Thursday. "Everything started getting tight, so it's just a whole chain reaction."

TPC Sawgrass is the site of tour headquarters and was the setting in February 2010 for Woods' nationally televised acknowledgment of personal issues that led to a monthslong leave from the game and divorce from wife Elin Nordegren.

Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.