Woods misses cut at Quail Hollow

By Doug FergusonApril 30, 2010, 9:15 pm

Quail Hollow ChampionshipCHARLOTTE, N.C. – So much for Tiger Woods wanting the attention to return to his golf.

In a shocking meltdown Friday at the Quail Hollow Championship, Woods matched the worst nine-hole score of his PGA Tour career and wound up with a 7-over 79 to miss a cut for only the sixth time in his 14-year career.

He had three-putt bogeys on consecutive holes. He hit a flop shot that ran over the green and into the water. And he bottomed out on the 15th green with a four-putt double bogey from just over 30 feet.

“It is what it is,” Woods said when asked if rust or mechanics were the culprit. “Whatever it was, it wasn’t good enough.”

Not even close.

Making the performance even more surprising is that Woods was coming off a tie for fourth at the Masters three weeks ago, a remarkable performance considering it was his first competition since a five-month break after being caught cheating on his wife.

This was a big step backward.

The 79 was his second-worst score as a pro behind an 81 that Woods shot in the wind-blown third round of the 2002 British Open at Muirfield when he was going for the Grand Slam. His 43 on the back tied his worst nine-hole score on tour; he also shot 43 at the Bay Hill Invitational three years ago, and the 1996 Tour Championship.

“He’s obviously got things in his mind other than what’s going between the ropes right now,” said British Open champion Stewart Cink, who played with Woods. “You’ve got to learn how to balance what’s going on in your life with your golf. And if you’re not in a great place mentally, then it sometimes shows up out there.”

Woods finished at 9-over 153, the highest 36-hole total of his career.

Billy Mayfair birdied his final hole for a 4-under 68 and was the 36-hole leader at 8-under 136. He had a one-shot lead over two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, who played in Woods’ group. J.P. Hayes matched the Quail Hollow record with a 64 that put him in the group at 6-under 138 along with Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Paul Goydos.

This was Woods’ first time playing at a regular PGA Tour event with public ticket sales, and the crowd was gracious as ever with a few exceptions. Two fans, including a woman, held thumbs-down as Woods walked off the 15th green. Police also escorted away a fan who apparently heckled Woods as he left the 17th green. A friend of the fan, who declined to give his name, said the fan only said, “No red shirt for you on Sunday.”

Otherwise, it was clear over the last two days the fans were more interested in Woods as a golfer than anything to do with his personal life. He just didn’t give them much to cheer. And he won’t be around for the weekend.

“You have to let it go,” Woods said. “It’s like baseball – you go 0-for-4 two days in a row like I did, you’ve got a whole new tournament next week, which is great.”

Woods is to compete next week at The Players Championship. He won at Sawgrass in 2001, but he also has finished out of the top 20 more often there than at any other tournament.

It was the first time Woods missed a cut since the British Open last summer at Turnberry, and the first time at a regular PGA Tour event since the Disney Classic at the end of the 2005 season.

“Give this guy a chance, though. He’ll bounce back,” Mayfair said. “We all know that. Everyone on tour knows that. By him missing a few cuts here and there, it’s just going to make him come back even stronger. I don’t think anyone out here is worried about Tiger, and I’m sure Tiger is not worried about it right now, either.”

One shot over the projected cut going to the back nine, Woods bogeyed the next three holes before it really turned ugly. He hit driver on the 329-yard 14th hole well to the right on a hill, leaving him a downhill shot to a green sloping toward the water. His flop shot came out too hot, bounded across the green and went into the water for a double bogey.

He didn’t take much time over shots after that, appearing to have packed in it.

“I didn’t have much,” Woods said. “At that point in time, it was pretty much out of reach, and I was just trying to stay out of Angel’s way. He’s the one who’s leading the golf tournament.”

Even so, Woods’ poor play was exacerbated by the four-putt on the 15th. He ran his 30-foot birdie attempt about 3 1/2 feet by the hole, caught the lip with his par putt, then rapped a 30-inch putt that spun around the cup.

“I’ve seen him struggle like that off the tee,” said Cink, who also missed the cut. “But he’s usually the magician that gets the ball up and down from everywhere, hits some miraculous shots out of the trees and stuff. But you’ve got to remember, he hasn’t played a lot of golf since about November. It’s hard to just come back and be the magician instantly.”

Of the six times Woods has missed the cut, the 17-shot gap between him and the leader was the largest by three shots.

Woods holds the PGA Tour record for 142 consecutive tournaments making the cut, which ended at the 2005 Byron Nelson Classic. He also missed the cut at the 1997 Canadian Open and the 2006 U.S. Open.

But he never looked as bad as he did Friday at Quail Hollow.

It started on his back nine when a 3-wood narrowly missed clearing the bunker in front of the green. Woods flubbed the bunker shot, chipped too strong and missed the par putt.

“Ten was a pretty big deflator right there, because I hit a 3-wood and missed clearing the bunker by about a foot and ended up making bogey on a hole that I should have made a birdie,” he said. “So that hurt a lot.”

Bogeys on the next two holes were set up by poor tee shots, not unusual the way he was driving the ball. Woods hit only two fairways – none on the back nine, and none since the fourth hole.

Even so, the real problem was his short game and mental mistakes. After opening with a 10-foot birdie to get inside the cut line, it wasn’t long before problems began to surface – not the bogeys, but how he was making them.

Knowing how fast the putt is from above the hole at No. 3, Woods still ran it 8 feet by and three-putted for bogey, the first of consecutive three-putt bogeys. On the par-3 sixth, he had an awkward stance with his ball just outside the bunker. The worst thing he could do was chip too strong, yet that’s what he did, running it 10 feet by the hole and missing a downhill par putt that he barely touched.

On the next hole, he faced a simple chip that he only had to get to a ridge in the green, but chipped it off the other side and had to scramble for par on a hole where most players expect birdie.

Through it all, he made the turn at 2 over for the tournament, easily within range of making the cut.

It all changed so quickly, and before long, Woods was headed home to Florida.

“It does bother me, no doubt,” he said. “But at least I get the weekend to watch and see how it’s done, how real players play golf. And hopefully, I can piece it together for next week and be ready to go.”

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JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

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