WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – It would be like catching a Rolling Stones concert … only without Mick Jagger and Keith Richards jamming onstage.
It would be like going to dinner at Peter Luger Steakhouse … only to find they’re sold out of both the filet and the porterhouse.
It would be like visiting the nation’s capital … only to hear the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial are closed for renovations.
Think about that for a minute: There have been 197 previous tournaments where at least one of the game’s two biggest stars has cashed a paycheck on the weekend.
Of those 197, one of them missed the cut only 22 times.
Of those 197, at least one of them finished inside the top 10 152 times.
Of those 197, they combined to win 69 times.
It was a truly remarkable streak between the two of ‘em. And it’s now over after 17 years.
Woods posted rounds of 71-69 and Mickelson countered with scores of 71-71 as each failed to finish inside the number at The Greenbrier Classic. The only other time that’s happened was at the 1993 Byron Nelson Championship, when Woods was still a baby-faced 17-year-old amateur.
During a week in which rumors have circulated that each player may have received – or will be receiving – some sort of appearance fee that circumvents PGA Tour rules via loophole, there was a line making the rounds on social media sites that these turned out to be “disappearance fees” instead.
What does it all mean going forward? In the grand scheme of things, not much.
Woods’ missed cut came in his first trip to the West Virginia foothills, while Mickelson failed to reach the weekend for the second time in two tries here.
For a pair of players who clearly want their games to peak four times a year – they own 14 and four major championship titles, respectively – missing the cut should hardly equate to some type of death march on the private jet home.
For Woods, it marks just the ninth missed cut of his professional career and the first time that he didn’t reach the weekend in the very next week after a victory. Coupled with his MC at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this year, it’s also the first time since 2005 that he’s missed multiple cuts in a season.
Of course, when weighed on the scale against three wins already this season, it should hardly be cause for concern.
“It happens,” Woods said after his round. “You know, you miss cuts out here. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I think I’ve missed nine cuts. One or two every couple of years, I guess.”
Coming off Sunday’s triumph at the AT&T National, he maintained that he was surprised by his result.
“Yeah, because I had my distance control dialed in,” Woods explained. “But this week I was hitting balls so far. I know it’s hot; I know there’s altitude. [But] my sand wedge is going 142, 145 [yards], wedges 160. These are not numbers I normally hit. Some of the bigger guys hit those numbers, but I don’t. I was really struggling to hit the ball on the right number.”
As for Mickelson, despite a win and two other top-three finishes so far this season, there should be greater cause for concern.
Friday’s round was his seventh consecutive over-par total, a number he had never before reached during a Hall of Fame career.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” Mickelson said. “It hasn’t been great. The parts don’t feel that far off, but I haven’t been putting them together.”
For the second straight day, he carded three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey, leaving him cautiously optimistic, but without full confidence in the current state of his game.
“It doesn’t feel bad off the tee; it doesn’t feel bad with the iron play; it doesn’t feel bad chipping or putting,” he added. “But I’m making a lot of loose drives here or there, some loose iron shots here or there, missing some short putts here or there, and just haven’t been putting it all together.”
It’s easy to focus on the negative after Tiger and Phil – one-named wonders, each of them – fail to find any success on the very same week.
It isn’t the end of the world for either one, though. Far from it, in fact. With the Open Championship coming up in two weeks, each will have a chance to redeem himself on a much bigger stage, far from the West Virginia countryside that rendered them mortals for the past two days.
If anything, the end of their streak should be met with celebration. For 17 years, the game’s two biggest stars combined to live up to expectations nearly every single time they teed it up in the same event, with at least one of them always sticking around for the weekend.
This isn’t the end of some era, but that streak is over now. The historic numbers remain, though, as do memories of a shared run that deserves to be appreciated for its longevity.