LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tiger Woods needed a par.
He stood on the tee box, four swings and 444 yards from salvation.
But his first shot went left; his second shot right. His third shot landed 20 feet short of the hole; and his final gasp proved an exhalation of air that left him dead, by inches, for the weekend.
Tiger Woods had missed the cut.
It had to happen, he said at the time. I cant play my entire career without missing a cut.
Maybe just the remainder of his career.
When Woods bogeyed three of his final four holes and shot 76 in the second round of the 1997 Bell Canadian Open, the then 21-year-old had the weekend off.
It was his first such failure as a professional. And to this date his last ' at least as he sees it.
Woods enters this weeks Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort having played 112 consecutive PGA Tour events without missing a cut. Thats one shy of Byron Nelsons all-time record.
It should be noted - and this is important and sometimes overlooked fact - that this is not a cuts-made streak. This is a consecutive-events-played-without-a-missed-cut streak.
He would have reached that mark four tournaments ago ' dating back to the 97 Bell Canadian ' were it not for the 1998 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
When the event was weather-delayed for seven months, Woods opted not to make a return trip to the Monterey Peninsula in August and, consequently, withdrew. He would have had to shoot 65 in order to make the cut.
Though Tiger does not recognize this as a missed cut, the tour does. They gave him credit for the 14 tournaments between the start and finish of the AT&T, meaning the cuts-made meter reverted to zero at Pebble Beach and has been running ever since.
But that number is at 89. This one, the one that is officially recognized by the tour, is at 112. He has played in 23 tournaments that did not have a cut during that stretch.
Making the cut this week outside of his adopted hometown of Orlando would guarantee him of both tying and eventually breaking golfs mark of model consistency.
Tigers next event is the Tour Championship, where there is no cut.
Cutting it Close
If Woods had it his way, hed win every event convincingly and without distress. Hed jump quickly out of the starting blocks, blow past everyone in turn 2, accelerate through turn 3, and coast to victory coming home.
Domination sans drama. A nice leisurely stroll up 18 and into the winners circle.
Of course, Tiger doesnt always play like the No. 1 player in the world, and things dont always go according to what he ' or even we ' expects.
Form can elude even the greatest player on the planet. And over the last five years Woods has had a few close calls and narrow escapes. Yet more often than not, he has found the steel to brush aside the nagging touch of failure when it taps him on the shoulder:
1999 Buick Invitational: Woods made two double bogeys on the back nine and survived the cut by two strokes. He then shot 62-65 over the weekend to win by two.
2000 Buick Invitational: Woods was two below the cut line until he made five birdies and one incredible par save on the back nine for a 68. He tied for the lead Sunday before finishing four strokes back, tied for second.
2000 Canadian Open: Woods was one shot clear of the cut line with four holes to play when he went birdie-eagle-birdie-eagle. He went on to produce a dramatic fairway bunker shot on the 72nd hole to win by a shot over Grant Waite.
2001 U.S. Open: Woods shot 74-71, and at one point was 11 strokes behind the leader. The U.S. Open cut is top 60 and everyone within 10 shots of the lead. He finished eight back to make the cut, then had two 69s to tie for 12th.
2001 Buick Classic: Woods played 35 holes Friday because of a rain delay. He opened with a 75, but managed a 66 in the afternoon. He drove the par-4 10th green and made birdie, holed a bunker shot for another birdie and secured his weekend status with a birdie on his 16th hole. He shot 68-71 on the weekend and tied for 16th.
2001 PGA Championship: Woods, the two-time defending champion, was two below the projected cut when he holed a 40-foot birdie putt from off the 15th green, then a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 16. He wound up making the cut by one, had 69-70 on the weekend and tied for 29th.
2002 Pebble Beach: Woods was one stroke better than the cut and facing a 15-foot par putt on No. 12. He made his par, and then added an insurance birdie on No. 16 to make it by two shots. He had 71-68 on the weekend to tie for 12th.
2002 Buick Invitational: Coming off double bogey on No. 17, Woods needed a birdie on the final hole to make the cut. He holed a six-footer for birdie to make it on the number, and then closed with rounds of 69-65 to tie for fifth.
Woods started this season with Nelsons streak in his crosshairs; though, Tigers run could have come to an untimely halt late last year, as the excruciating pain he experienced in his knee nearly drove him off the course on more than one occasion.
Id get up in the morning and just feel, I dont know if I can go. I've got to see how I warm up. And when I got to my driver, some of the days were just brutal. I just had to somehow go out there and walk it through it, get it done, Woods said.
Late in the year was not a whole lot of fun.
December surgery helped alleviate the pain, but it did nothing to guard his streak from annoying encounters with the dreaded missed cut.
Woods stepped onto the grounds of Augusta National seeking an unprecedented third consecutive Masters title, and instead found himself struggling to hang around long enough to slip the green jacket onto someone elses shoulders.
He was on the cut line, at 5 over par, when he birdied the seventh hole, his 16th of the day.
Seemingly safe, he shockingly three-putted from 25 feet for bogey at the eighth. The tension peaked after he drove his tee shot at the last behind a pine tree. After dumping his approach shot into the bunker, he blasted out to three feet and drilled the putt into the right side for par to make the cut on the number.
Four months later he found himself in a similarly unenviable position at Oak Hill.
Having run his streak to 108, Woods opened in 4-over 74 at the PGA Championship. He then bogeyed two of his final three holes Friday to shoot 72 and make the cut by two strokes. He ended with a pair of 73s to finish 16 back of winner Shaun Micheel.
His most recent escape was at the Deutsche Bank Championship, a tournament that, ironically, benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation.
Woods made three early bogeys in the second round and was three strokes over the cut line when he made six birdies in nine holes to secure safe haven.
When it comes to making the cut, Woods has been down but never out. Whether closer to the summit or nearer Ground Zero, he keeps climbing.
You might hear a few four-letter words coming from his mouth, but quit is not one of them.
When I look back on my career, I will say I didnt dog it, Woods has said, adding that hes never thought about quitting and never wanted to.
There have been times when youre not playing well, not feeling well, youre hurt, times when your game is lost and you can think of other places to be, he said. But while youre competing, you might as well give it everything youve got.
Read Part 2 Thursday, which will compare and contrast the two streaks, and look into the legitimacy of Woods' mark. Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs at email@example.com
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.