By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- As it turned out, that 6-foot birdie putt Tiger Woods missed Thursday on first hole of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola set the tone for a very disappointing afternoon at East Lake.
Woods, who came into the FedExCup Playoffs finale ranked No. 1, could do no better than a 73 that left him 29th in a 30-man field and a distant nine strokes off the lead. He did not make a birdie for just the seventh time as a pro -- and the first time since the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open.
Interestingly, three of those birdie-less rounds have come at East Lake, where Woods has won twice and finished second on four occasions. Previously, both were in 1998 when he shot 75 and 76 in the first two rounds -- then rallied with a pair of 69s to finish 20th.
While Woods only hit eight fairways and 12 greens in regulation, his real troubles came when he got to the putting surface. He missed four birdie putts inside 10 feet and had a total of 34 putts, leaving him ranked 29th in strokes-gained putting.
Woods' difficulties were magnified when measured against against his playing partner, Henrik Stenson, who fired a 64 and leads the field. Woods opted not to speak to the media after his round.
"We know he didn't have the best of days, and he's going to fight hard to try to come back into the tournament," Stenson said. "It's still a long way to go, but it's always nice to perform the way I did when you're playing with the world's best player."
Stenson said he didn't think Woods was playing that poorly. But he missed a couple of shots in the wrong spot, the Swede reported, and those bogeys put Woods behind the eight-ball.
"I mean, if you're not making any birdies, then it's going to be a bad day, simple as that," Stenson said. "On a good day, you might make one or two up-and-downs and then roll a couple in. e know how small the margins are.
"He could have been 2 under or 1 under with the same play if you just take your opportunities. Certain days, it just doesn't work out for you."