AKRON (Ohio) • Tiger Woods said there was nothing bothering him but poor play on Saturday, as he tumbled out of contention at the Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio.
Woods, an eight-time winner of the event at Firestone Country Club in Akron, said his three-over 73 had nothing to do with any injury or illness.
"I just played like crap," said the 14-time Major champion, who started the day tied for 10th and five shots off the lead and finished 11 off the pace.
"I didn't warm up very well. I didn't hit the ball crisp or clean. I didn't feel like I was in control. And then I had some putts where, you know, I had some good looks at it to turn it around, build some momentum, I didn't make anything.
"Just wasn't as sharp as I needed to be, especially with everyone making a bunch of birdies."
The lacklustre effort was bound to draw questions about his fitness.
Since his most recent title at the 2013 Bridgestone, Woods has battled back trouble that led to spinal-fusion surgery in April last year.
As recently as last September, he was not sure if he would return to competitive golf, but his comeback has steadily gained steam; he rose from outside the world's top 500 at the start of the year to 50th.
"He wasn't hitting it as far as he normally does," said Australian Marc Leishman, who played alongside Woods. "His good stuff, it's still good. He's right there. He might have had an off-day. We all do. I wouldn't put it down to anything more than that."
Woods' effort ended a run of 10 rounds at par or better, dating back to the Quicken Loans National last month when he tied for fourth.
He hit just seven of 14 fairways and only nine of 18 greens in regulation as he finished with four bogeys and one birdie.
Justin Thomas turned on the jets midway through the third round and opened a three-stroke lead.
A week before defending his PGA Championship title, he hit a 67 after starting the day tied for the lead with Englishmen Ian Poulter (70) and Tommy Fleetwood (74).
The American gathered five birdies in nine holes from the sixth en route to a 14-under 196 total.
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy also had a 67 to jump into second place alongside Poulter at 199.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS