JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Tiger Woods’ stunning downfall has gotten worse: He missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
The player who once dominated golf headed home Friday after shooting a 10-over 150 at Atlanta Athletic Club.
With no one seizing control of the tournament, this became another day to focus on Woods’ collapse, his career in tatters because of personal failings and a broken game.
Consecutive double-bogeys at the 11th and 12th holes ruined any hopes he had of making it to the weekend. He finished with a 3-over 73 on the heels of an opening-round 77.
“I hit 20 bunkers in two days. I had four or five water balls,” Woods said. “That’s not going to add up to a very good score.”
Woods finished in appropriate fashion at the 18th, putting his tee shot in the bunker, his second shot in the water and finishing with a bogey. He was projected to miss the cut by a staggering six shots.
Woods was on the sideline for three months - missing the last two majors - because of an injured leg. He returned a week ago at Firestone, proclaiming himself fully fit and ready to go for his 15th major title.
He wound up missing the cut in one of golf’s biggest events for only the third time in his professional career, following the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot (shortly after the death of the his father) and the British Open at Turnberry two years ago.
Now, he’ll be dropping out of public view again for another long layoff. He won’t attempt to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoff, so his next tournament will be in November when he heads to Australia.
His next shot at a major is eight months away, at the Masters.
“I get some time off again,” Woods said. “But now I’m healthy enough to work on my game. It’s going to be good. Sean (Foley, his coach) and I did not really have an opportunity to sit down and do a lot of work. This will be our time.”
There’s a lot of work to do.
Woods had a glimmer of hope after closing the front side with back-to-back birdies, pushing him to even-par on the day and three shots off the projected cut.
But it all fell apart at the 11th hole, which Woods played like an average duffer. He put his tee shot in a bunker. He knocked his approach into another pit of sand left of the green. From an awkward lie, he put his left foot sideways on the grass and tried to pull off a delicate shot with water looming on the other side.
Woods got too much of the ball, which sped across the green and plopped into the pond. He wound up making double bogey, pretty much finishing off his hopes.
At the next hole, he didn’t appear to care anymore.
His drive sailed into the trees left of the 12th fairway, forcing him to punch out. Then he unleashed a wild, one-handed shot with a wood from the first cut, letting go of the club as the ball whizzed right back into the towering pines.
Woods wound up with another double-bogey, his fifth in two days - the first time he’s ever made that many doubles in any professional tournament.
He pulled himself together and made a couple of birdies, but it didn’t matter at that point. At the final hole, he drove into a fairway bunker and didn’t come close to clearing the water with his approach.
Forget making the cut; Woods didn’t even beat five of the 20 PGA of American club pros who were in the field.
Even so, he tried to put a positive spin on his miserable performance.
“It’s a step back in the sense I didn’t make the cut,” Woods said. “But it’s a giant leap forward in that I played two straight weeks and I’m healthy. It’s going to be great for my practice sessions coming up. Now I’ll be able to work and get after it.”
If Woods missing the cut was the biggest surprise, the golfers at the top of the leaderboard were close behind.
Keegan Bradley, playing in his first major, shot a 64. Jason Dufner, who had missed the cut in five of his last six events, made 65. Both were at 5-under 135.
Steve Stricker came into the round with a two-stroke lead after a bogey-free 63 - tied for the lowest score ever in a major and just a hair away from having the record all to himself. He missed a 10-footer for birdie at his final hole Thursday.
There would be a lot more of those on Friday. Suddenly, one of the game’s steadiest putters couldn’t make one, lipping out a couple of short attempts and ceding the lead with four bogeys on the front side.
Jim Furyk (65), D.A. Points (67) and John Senden (68) were one shot behind the leaders at 136. Stricker and another American veteran, Scott Verplank, were also at 4 under coming to the end of their rounds.
“It feels great,” Points said, “but it’s only Friday. It’s going to feel a lot better when it’s Sunday.”
Rory McIlroy hasn’t given up challenging on the weekend, even after struggling to a 73 that included a triple bogey. He was eight shots off the lead.
Just making it through the first two days was an accomplishment for McIlroy, given what he did on his third hole of the tournament. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland strained a tendon when he foolishly took a swing with his ball sitting against a thick tree root Thursday.
He considered quitting a couple of times, but felt comfortable about carrying on after getting an MRI and being told by the medical staff that he couldn’t do any more damage. With a heavily taped arm and wrist, he carried on another day - and did well enough to make it to the weekend.
“If it wasn’t a major,” he said, “I probably would’ve stopped.”
McIlroy blew away the field at Congressional two months ago with a record-setting 16-under score. He’s become the new face of the game with Woods struggling, arriving at this course in Atlanta’s sprawling northern suburbs as the favorite.
That ill-advised swing might have ruined his chances.
McIlroy said his wrist didn’t hurt as much in the second round. Actually, a shaky putter was his main problem.
“I feel like I’m hitting the ball OK,” he said. “I gave myself a few chances but I just didn’t putt very well at all. I’m struggling on the greens this week.”
There was also a misjudged tee shot at the par-3 17th.
Torn between clubs, he actually went for a little more distance with a 6-iron. But he took a little bit off his swing, got the ball a little too high and watched in disbelief as a slight breeze carried it into the water. He had to take a drop, then three-putted.
Coming off a 40-foot birdie putt at the 16th that got him into the red, the triple bogey was a momentum killer. “It was tough to come back from that,” McIlroy said.
But he’s not conceding the Wanamaker Trophy to anyone.
“I hope to make a good run at it the next couple of days,” McIlroy said. “I feel as if I can still make birdies out there. If I didn’t think I could contend, I probably wouldn’t be playing.”