JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Say goodbye to Tiger Woods. You won’t see him on the PGA Tour for the rest of this year. Woods missed the cut Friday at the PGA Championship, the first time he’s missed a cut in 14 appearances in this major championship.
And that means he will not qualify for the Tour’s FedEx Cup playoff series. Somewhere, television executives have tears in their eyes. That’s four more marquee tour events Woods will miss.
“Yeah,” Woods said after his round, smiling with chagrin, “I’ve got some time off again.”
It was the fourth time Woods missed the cut at a major championship. He previously failed to make the weekend at the 1996 Masters, when he was an amateur, the 2006 U.S. Open and the 2009 British Open.
Tiger’s numbers at Atlanta Athletic Club were uglier than the nation’s unemployment figures. Woods followed Thursday’s 77 with a discouraging 73 on Friday in which he suffered back-to-back double bogeys on the back nine after mounting a small charge. He made five double bogeys in his first 30 holes here, the first time he’s ever had five doubles in any tournament as a pro. He finished 36 holes at 10 over par.
In a nutshell, it’s back to the drawing board for Woods on his swing-reclamation project. He said he will work on his game and not play in any tournaments for the next three months. He has committed to play the Australian Open in November, and confirmed that November would be his next appearance. So his next official PGA Tour appearance won’t be until sometime in 2012.
Meanwhile, it’ll be practice, practice, practice with his swing coach, Sean Foley, the instructor he’s been working with for the past year — at least, when he hasn’t been hurt.
“Now I’ll have nothing to do but work on my game,” Woods said. “Sean and I haven’t had the opportunity to really sit down and do a lot of work, so this will be our time.”
Woods played a little better Friday than he did on Thursday and appeared to be managing his game as best he could, but he continued to make too many mistakes due to errant shots and, on occasion, errant putts.
“Well, I showed signs that I can hit the ball exactly how I know I can,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, I just didn’t do it enough times.”
Two holes helped torpedo Tiger’s chances. The first was the par-3 seventh hole, where Woods hit a solid 7-iron shot to 18 feet and struck a remarkably poor putt that barely got past the halfway point. He missed the six-foot putt for par and walked away with a stunning and inexcusable bogey.
The par-4 11th hole finished off his chances of making the cut. He pulled his drive left into a fairway bunker, and immediately hated the ensuing iron shot, swiping his club angrily at the sand afterward. That shot finished near the lip of a greenside bunker. Woods had to assume an awkward stance, with his left leg raised up and out of the bunker on a finger of grass. He wasn’t able to catch it cleanly — it’s become a minor controversy that the club put new sand in its bunkers just over a week ago, causing an unusual number of shots to plug. Tiger could only watch as his ball rolled across the green, down a slope, over a rock ledge and into the pond.
He then walked back to the drop area in front of the pond, played a nice pitch from 55 yards to four feet and made the putt to salvage a double bogey. That dropped him to nine over par, five shots off what figured to be the cut-line at that point.
Then it got even worse. Woods pulled his drive at the par-5 12th hole into the trees, where it caromed left and went even farther into the shade. He pitched back to the fairway, yanked a fairway wood shot left and let the club drop in frustration on his follow-through as he stood with one hand on his hip, staring in a combination of shock, dismay and disgust. He hooked his next shot near the green, pitched on and missed the putt for another double bogey. He was 11 over for the tournament, and he was finished. He managed to birdie the 13th and 15th to get to nine over, but it was too late to matter, and a bogey at the 18th was a fitting end to his round.
“Today I hit the ball a lot better,” Woods said. “I putted well the last two days and really felt great, but I just never got to the green soon enough.”
After Thursday’s round, Woods admitted that he was angry with himself. After this one?
“Obviously frustration, disappointment that I’m not contending in the tournament,” he said. “I think it’s a step back in the sense that I didn’t make the cut. But it’s a giant leap forward in the fact that I played two straight weeks healthy. I thought I could come in here and play the last couple of weeks and get it done somehow, but I need some work.”
That was Woods trying to put a positive spin on a poor two-week stretch. In Akron last week and again this week, he talked about playing to win, not just for a decent finish. When a writer asked if maybe he should have lower expectations coming off an injury, Woods cut him off and barked, “I’m not other guys.” On Friday, he sounded like he’d finally gotten a dose of realism.
“This year has been frustrating, because I was feeling somewhat healthy going into the Masters, and put it together there and was leading the tournament with a few holes to go,” he said. “And then obviously got hurt, and I haven’t played since, really. So it’s been frustrating.”
Woods began the second round playing carefully, and he successfully parred the first four holes. Although if you believe in omens, you got the idea right away that it wasn’t Tiger’s day. After his first drive, he twirled his club on the tee, which he normally does when he plays a good shot, but his ball ended up in a fairway bunker. He played a 7-iron shot toward the green but that found a bunker, too. Two swings, two bunkers. He splashed out to 12 feet and rolled in the par save, drawing a loud roar from a big gallery.
He sprayed his drive right at the second hole, played a sweet shot off a bare lie through the trees and two-putted from 40 feet for a good recovery par.
At the par-5 fifth hole, which should’ve been a birdie hole and was crucial because AAC has only one par 5 on each side, he made a mistake. He faded his tee shot into a fairway bunker, laid up and plowed a pitching wedge shot into a bunker behind the green. The soft new sand caused his ball to plug on a downslope, a terrible break. He could only splash it out to 15 feet and two-putt for bogey. It was an opportunity he couldn’t afford to squander, it turned out.
He lipped out a superb birdie putt at the par-4 sixth, then made the putting blunder at the seventh. He gamely bounced back, however. At the eighth, he put a good swing on a short iron and dropped it right over the flag, 18 feet past. He rolled that left-to-right putt in for birdie.
At the ninth, suddenly playing more quickly, Woods wasted no time after Padraig Harrington played his approach shot. Woods stepped up and hit a low, skipping sand wedge shot to eight feet, within 15 seconds of Harrington’s play. He made that putt, too, after watching Davis Love roll a putt on a similar line. Suddenly, Tiger had hope.
That got him back to even for the day, a 35 on the front nine. The cut-line at that point had slipped to four over par, so Woods was only three shots back.
He hit two good shots at the 10th and made par. Then it all unraveled at the 11th and 12th holes.
For Woods, it was a PGA Championship, and a year, to forget.