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Tiger over par again at East Lake
“I’m tired.” – Tiger Woods.
I had to listen to that again after I heard him say it on a warm Georgia afternoon to make sure my ears weren’t deceiving me.
The best conditioned athlete in golf — the man who got the PGA Tour to put down their doughnuts and head to the gym — is … tired?
And he wanted to be a Navy SEAL? I don’t think they get tired.
I’ve heard Woods say many things over the years, but I never thought I’d hear him say the reason he played the last five holes at the Tour Championship in six strokes over par was because “my legs were just tired.”
Woods had fought back from a woeful opening 73 and made five birdies through 13 holes in the second to get to within four shots of the lead when he just fell apart.
Physically, he’d have us believe.
He made a sloppy double bogey on the 14th and was worse on 17, hitting his tee shot in the water left of the fairway and proceeding to bleed all over the hole from there, finishing with a triple bogey.
“Didn’t have much at the end,” he said with a shrug after a round that’ll probably cost him the $10 million FedEX Cup.
“Just ran out of gas.”
What must be happening to Brendon de Jonge if Tiger’s running out of gas?
The Zimbabwean looks more like a bowler than a finely conditioned athlete, yet the Tour Championship is his 30th tournament of the season.
Woods is playing in just his 17th.
Henrik Stenson, who’s leading at the halfway stage at East Lake, is playing in tournament No. 25.
“It’s been just a long, long grind,” said Woods.
It’s true that he has played seven of the past 10 weeks — there was an off week two weeks ago — but the fact is so has just about everyone else.
Indeed, Brandt Snedeker has played nine of those 10.
And while being in contention can take its toll with extra responsibilities, Woods has only been in the running at the Bridgestone Invitational – which he won – and at The Barclays, where he finished a shot behind Adam Scott.
He’s had much tougher years throughout his career and didn’t complain.
“We’re looking forward to that week off,” said Woods of next week, before effectively ending this run at the Presidents Cup in Ohio.
“Everyone out here has got some knick-knack injuries, and guys are taped up and banged up a little bit.”
He avoided answering if he was injured, though, it must be said that the concept of being “banged up” is a little far-fetched for a golfer.
What must they be thinking in hockey locker rooms, or those of the NFL, at the suggestion of golfers being banged up?
For the record, Woods’ fellow professionals know how he feels because they feel it, too.
It can be a grind on the PGA Tour but, as Justin Rose said, players need to “dig that much deeper.”
"All of us are tired,” said the US Open champion, who admitted to feeling burnout the past few weeks. “But I just kind of refused to talk myself into being that way this week. I’m just trying to make a real effort this week to bring my best stuff.”
Keegan Bradley said that while “everybody’s a little tired right now … we’ve got a lot to play for.”
“So there’s not much time to be tired,” he said.
Yet Woods looked tired, both physically and mentally, as he walked alone along a path that took him away from the fans outside East Lake’s clubhouse.
And perhaps the explanation for that exhaustion goes beyond just this day, this week, this month or this year.
Tiger’s 37, and an old 37 at that.
It takes a lot to get to the top of this game, but far more energy and commitment to stay there, as he did for almost 13 years.
It seems those years are taking their toll.
Would anyone believe that Woods loves golf now as much as he did when he was a kid, dreaming of winning the Masters?
It might be unnatural if he did.
It’s not like Woods to speak of such things — he likes his cards glued to his chest — but it is clear that these days, more often than not, golf has become a grind.
And some days, he just doesn’t have it in him to grind.