Commentary

Tiger's trip cut in half at Turnberry

Originally Published: July 17, 2009
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- According to the Rolex clock located on the huge Pittsburgh Steelers-yellow scoreboard just to the side of the 18th green, Tiger Woods' 2009 Open Championship ended at exactly 7:15 p.m. local time Friday. That's when his birdie chip from just beyond the back of the green decided it had better things to do than roll into the cup.

Instead, it came to a stop 3 feet short of the pin and, just like that, Woods' Open was history. Or, if Chicago White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson were doing the Turnberry play-by-play, "He gone."

Oh, sure, it wasn't official official. If enough players still on the course shot John Daly's weight, or fell into the Firth of Clyde, or were kidnapped by aliens, then, yeah, Woods could sneak under the cut line. But they didn't, and he didn't. His rounds of 71 on Thursday and 74 on Friday -- putting him at 5 over par for the tournament -- got him exactly what he deserved: a jet ride back to the States.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Glyn Kirk/Getty ImagesThe 2006 U.S. Open was the last time Tiger Woods missed a cut … and it was the only time before Friday that it happened at a major.

Obligatory dumb post-round question: "What's next for you?"

Woods: "Well, go home, get something to eat. I'm really hungry right now."

He'll have plenty of time to chow down this weekend. Maybe even mow the yard. Play with the kids. Watch somebody else win the Open Championship, the same championship for which oddsmakers made him a 2-1 favorite.

There's no nice way of describing his first missed cut since the 2006 U.S. Open and only his sixth MC as a pro. Woods played semi-awful. Jimmy Fallon could have beaten him.

"I just made mistakes," he said. "And obviously you can't make mistakes and expect to not only make the cut but also try to win a championship. You have to play clean rounds of golf, and I didn't."

Parts of Woods' rounds were so dirty that you'd need a wire brush and a can of Comet to get the crud off. He spent way too much time spraying his tee shots to the far corners of the Turnberry hay, otherwise known as shin-high rough. For the benefit of the marshals, he'd point his club to the right or left, then maybe slam the clubhead, then mutter a few bad words, then trudge down the hole in search of his ball.

The numbers are coyote ugly: only 15 of 28 fairways hit, only 21 of 36 greens in regulation. You can't even win the member-guest with those sorts of stats.

"Well, that is surprising," said 59-year-old Tom Watson, your (gulp) Open co-leader. "It seems like he's been playing awfully well this year. … [But] when you're not confident about where you're hitting it and you start hitting it sideways a few times, then it gets to you. I don't care how good you are -- it gets to you."

Woods was 1 under par for the day and even for the tournament when he stepped off the No. 7 green Friday. Then smoke started streaming from the hood of the Tigermobile.

Bogey on No. 8. Bogey on No. 9. Double-bogey on No. 10 (where he lost his ball and had to hit a provisional). Par on No. 11. Bogey on No. 12. Double-bogey on No. 13. Pars on Nos. 14 and 15. Birdies on Nos. 16 and 17. Par on No. 18. When the numbers were finally crunched about an hour later, Woods missed the cut by exactly 1 stroke.

Never before in his pro career had Woods played a six-hole stretch in 7 over par.

"I thought if I shot under par for the tournament, to end the day, I'd be right there in the championship, probably in the top 10," he said.

And he's right. Had Woods played like the Tiger Woods who just won his own tournament two weeks ago, he'd be on the leaderboard instead of on a flight to Florida. Even if he had just been in the vicinity of red numbers, he could have challenged for this major.

Nothing against Watson and co-leader Steve Marino, or the guys chasing them, but this isn't the most intimidating leaderboard of all time. For every Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia, there's somebody named Kenichi Kuboya. (They actually list Kuboya's blood type on the Japan Golf Tour Web site bio.)

John Daly and his cartoon pants will be here this weekend. Sixteen-year-old Italian amateur Matteo Manassero will be here. Watson, closing fast on 60, will be here. But not Woods. In fact, ABC could be looking for a new golf analyst now that Watson is busy. Is it too late to get Tiger a network blazer?

"Well, you don't often see him play shots like that, some of the shots he played," said Lee Westwood, who played in Woods' threesome. "But everybody is entitled to a bad day every now and again. It happens to all of us."

It doesn't happen very often to Woods. He is 0-for-majors in 2009. He tied for sixth at the Masters, tied for sixth at the recent U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and just waved goodbye at the British. His surgically repaired left knee is good to go, but his majors performance needs some rehab.

"I just haven't put together all four rounds, and you have to play clean in order to win a major championship," Woods said. "I haven't done that."

He still has next month's PGA Championship to extend his win-at-least-one-major-a-year streak going. He won the U.S. Open in '08, the PGA in '07, the British and the PGA in '06, and the Masters and British in '05.

Woods didn't linger after his Friday round. He shook hands with Westwood and Ryo Ishikawa. He did a quickie group media interview. Then it was a brisk walk to the players' parking lot, into a black S320 Mercedes, and that was that.

He gone.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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