After a strong start Woods' round ends in disaster
ATLANTA -- He claimed it was fatigue. When Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green at East Lake Golf Club after one of the most disastrous finishes to a round in his 17-year career, he stood outside the scoring trailer, blew out a deep breath and said, "Just ran out of gas."
That was one way of putting it. After an opening round of three-over par -- his first round without a birdie since the 2009 U.S. Open -- Woods began the second day of the Tour Championship in 29th place out of 30 players and teeing off in the first group, the dew –sweepers they are often called. But by lunch on Friday, he seemed to be clawing his way back into contention. He birdied five out of his first 13 holes and pulled within four shots of the leader, Henrik Stenson. Had Woods made pars on the last five holes and everything else remained equal, he would have finished the day tied for 12th and been paired with Phil Mickelson on Saturday. Instead, Tiger hooked his tee shot onto some mulch behind a tree on the par-four 14th, a predicament that led to a double bogey. Then he failed to birdie the par-five 15th, missing a relatively simple downhill 10-footer. Still, he was under par for the day and even for the tournament, a respectable comeback that would have left him in the middle of the pack going into the weekend. But on the par-four 17th, he pull-hooked a drive into the east lake of East Lake Golf Club and made an even bigger mess of things from there. By the time he walked to the 18th tee, he'd made a triple-bogey 7 and was tied for dead last.
"My legs were just tired," he said of the tee shot on 17. "I didn't rotate through the ball, and I turned it over. Same thing I did over on 14. Same shot."
There have been stretches where he has played worse, but not many. At the British Open at Turnberry in 2009 Woods had a six-hole stretch that he played in seven over par to miss the cut, and at the British at Muirfield in 2002 he shot 81 on Saturday in a 40-mph gale with rain and sleet blowing sideways off the North Atlantic. Those outings remain the worst of his career, although Friday's catastrophe at East Lake comes close. Weather conditions were perfect and the rough, while penal, was playable. Tournament leader Henrik Stenson looked like he could have sprinted around the course and then taught a Zumba class. He birdied three of his first four holes en route to a 66 to reach 10-under-par and finished the day with a four-shot lead over Adam Scott.
"All of us are tired," said U.S. Open winner Justin Rose, who shot 68 on Friday to enter the weekend tied for fourth, six shots behind Stenson.
"It's all how you frame it in your head…I just kind of refused to talk myself into being that way this week." Woods has played seven tournaments in the last 10 weeks, including two majors -- the British Open and the PGA Championship -- and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, which he won. The Tour Championship is his 17th tournament of the year.
"It's been a long, long grind," Woods said. "We play a lot of golf from the British Open on. It helps that some of the years where I have gotten worn out is when I've been in contention a lot." That is no longer the case at the Tour Championship despite what Woods might think.
"No, I'm still in contention," he said after his round. "There are 36 holes (left). That's why we play. That's why we have four rounds. This is not a sprint. It's tournament golf. It's a marathon. You've got to keep plugging around." Woods enters Saturday's third round 14 shots behind Stenson and tied for 26th place with Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker. Only two players, Boo Weekley and Charl Schwartzel, played worse.