Federer on Tiger: ‘It’s been hard to watch’

Tiger Woods waits on the eighth green during the first round of the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

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NEW YORK – Roger Federer says “it’s been hard to watch” his pal Tiger Woods struggle lately.

“It’s hard to follow, because you know what an athlete wants to do. He wants to be out there and compete and that’s what he’s not able to do with his injuries right now,” Federer said Saturday after a third-round win at the U.S. Open.

Federer said he and Woods chatted briefly on the phone earlier this week.

The two used to take part in a friendly competition over who would reach the Grand Slam record in their sport first. Federer tied Pete Sampras’ mark of 14 at the French Open in 2009 and broke it two months later at Wimbledon. He’s now at 16.

Woods, meanwhile, remains stuck on 14 – four short of Jack Nicklaus – without a major victory since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

“He’s done so much in such a short period of time and for such a long time, actually, which is where I also draw the inspiration from,” Federer said. “To see those great athletes do it for a very long time, I’ve been able to do something similar in that regard.”

As the undisputed leaders in their sports for much of the last decade, Federer and Woods were both represented by the same agency and worked together as pitchmen for Gillette. They also struck up a personal friendship; they shared texts and phone calls, hung out some and Woods was in Federer’s guest box to watch him win the 2006 U.S. Open and they shared a champagne toast after the final.

But Woods’ career has spiraled downward, first because of personal problems that began when he drove his SUV over a fire hydrant and crashed into a tree beyond his driveway in November 2009, then with a series of injuries that have turned his 2010 and 2011 seasons into a bust.

“It’s been tough for him the last year. He knows that,” Federer said. “It’s been hard to watch. I only wish him the best.”

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