By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- A long season apparently caught up to Tiger Woods on Friday at East Lake.
After playing his first 13 holes in 5 under, Woods stumbled to the finish, playing his last five holes in 6 over. He shot 71 and is thre strokes out of last place in the 30-man finale.
"I put everything I had into that start and didn't have much at the end," said Woods, who has five wins in 15 starts on the PGA TOUR this season and entered the week atop the FedExCup standings. "Just ran out of gas."
It was a startling revelation for the game's fittest player, whose shocking tumble started with a double bogey on the 14th hole after over-hooking his tee shot and struggling to escape the trees.
Two holes later, he failed to save par from a greenside bunker, coming up nearly 20 feet short on his pitch from the sand.
Things went from bad to worse on the 17th, where Woods pulled his tee shot into the water before leaving a chip from the front of the green short of the putting surface and eventually making a triple-bogey 7.
"My legs were just tired," Woods said. "I didn't rotate through the ball (on 17), and I turned it over. Same thing I did over on what was it, 14? Same shot.
"It's been just a long, long grind. We play a lot of golf from the British Open on."
Early in the round, Woods played his best golf in recent weeks, rolling in a 10-footer for birdie on the par-4 third before adding two more on Nos. 8 and 9. Said Woods, "It was finally nice to make a birdie in ‑‑ what was that, 21 holes?"
On the par-4 12th, he stuck another approach shot close to set up a 4-foot birdie putt before following that with a 15-footer for birdie on the next hole to get within four of the lead.
It was a stark contrast from a day earlier when Woods failed to make a birdie in a round for just the seventh time in his career and the first time since the opening round of the 2010 U.S. Open.
Friday, Woods adjusted to the speed of the greens and appeared well on his way to entering the weekend in contention for a third TOUR Championship and third FedExCup.
Instead, he hit the wall, going from the first page of the leaderboard to near the bottom of it in about an hour. It was the first time Woods posted consecutive rounds over par at East Lake since 2003.
"We're all looking forward to that week off," said Woods, referring to next week's break before the Presidents Cup. "Everyone out here has got some knick‑knack injuries, and guys are taped up and banged up a little bit."
Not that Woods is throwing in the towel just yet.
"I'm still in contention," he said. "There's 36 holes. This is not a sprint. It's a marathon. You've got to keep plugging around."