Tiger misses cut for first time in seven years
IRVING, Texas -- Tiger Woods studied the line from both directions, consulted his caddie, then settled in over a 15-foot par putt that was packed with the quiet tension normally found in a playoff at a major championship.
It was only a Friday afternoon at the Byron Nelson Championship, a rare time for Woods to feel so much heat. The putt wasn't for a trophy, but to keep alive the longest cut streak in PGA Tour history.
"Every guy in the locker room was watching," Jesper Parnevik said. "We're not allowed to bet, but guys were offering $1,000 he would make it."
That's because Woods always seems to do just that.
Not this time.
His putt broke gently toward the right side of the cup, then straightened out and trickled a few inches by, a dramatic end to one of the greatest streaks in sports.
"I just had a tough day," Woods said. "Things I don't normally do, I did today."
Topping the list was cleaning out his locker on a Friday.
A bogey on the 18th hole at Cottonwood Valley gave Woods a 2-over 72 and put him at 1 over par for the tournament, missing the cut for the first time in seven years and 142 tournaments. The cut was at even par.
"It was always going to come to an end eventually, wasn't it?" Robert Allenby said. "Obviously, it was a hell of a feat. That record will never be broken."
The streak dated to the 1998 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, when Woods withdrew after two rounds instead of returning nearly seven months later to complete the rain-delayed tournament. The cut is made after 54 holes at Pebble Beach because it is played on three courses.
The only other time he missed the cut in his 10 years on tour was the 1997 Canadian Open at Royal Montreal, where he also made a bogey on the final hole.
There have been 15 close calls over the years, most recently at The Players Championship when he bogeyed the final hole to make the cut on the number. But he always managed to come through.
"It's never a relief when you miss a cut," he said. "I've missed two of them so far in my career, and neither of them felt very good. It's disappointing, because you're here for four rounds to try to compete and win a tournament. And now I don't get that opportunity."
Woods leaves that to a collection of lesser-known players.
Sean O'Hair, the 22-year-old rookie who turned pro before he left high school, shot 65 to join journeyman Brett Wetterich (67) atop the leaderboard at 9-under 131 in a tournament that now only has four of the Big Five.
Vijay Singh, who likely will return to No. 1 in the world this week, had a 67 and Phil Mickelson shot 66 to be among those four shots behind. Ernie Els birdied the final hole for a 72 and was at 4-under 136.
Els now has the longest active cut streak on tour -- 20.
The longest active streak in golf belongs to Annika Sorenstam at 48 on the LPGA Tour.
"I've got about a hundred to go," Sorenstam said from Atlanta, where she leads by six shots. "What a great run, especially with the competition on the PGA Tour. It's too bad to see such a great run finished."
Perhaps it was only fitting that the end of Woods' record streak came at this tournament. Byron Nelson for years held the record, 113 consecutive cuts during the 1940s. Woods broke that at the 2004 Tour Championship, one of 31 events during his streak that had no cut.
His streak in tournaments with a 36-hole cut ended at 111.
"Just the streak in itself is amazing," said Kevin Sutherland, who played with Woods and Peter Lonard the first two days, unaware he would be part of a trivia question. " I don't think people realize how difficult it is to make that many in a row. That shows how hard he plays every time he tees it up."
Asked to comment about the end of the streak, Lonard smiled and said, "It wasn't my fault."
No, this was all on Woods.
He caught Cottonwood Valley, typically the easier of the two courses at the Nelson, on a day when gusts were up to 30 mph and the greens were firm.
He missed three birdie putts inside 12 feet on the front nine, but there were so signs of trouble. Then came a bogey on the par-3 ninth, and a three-putt bogey from 20 feet on the 13th, then another bogey from the bunker at No. 15.
Woods was over the cut line when he hit out of the trees with a 6-iron into about 30 feet for a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th. He two-putted for par from long range on the 17th, and appeared safe when his 2-iron found the middle of the fairway on No. 18.
But he twice backed off when the gusts whistled through the trees, and his 7-iron rode the wind from right to left, settling in a bunker that left Woods no chance to get it close.
"I over-shaped it a little bit," he said.
Some 1,500 fans surrounded the 18th green, most of them unaware what was at stake. They wouldn't have known much from Woods' reaction after he missed the putt. His shoulders slumped ever so slightly, and he turned his putter perpendicular to tap in for bogey, just like any other putt.
He spoke briefly to reporters, and the shock of missing the cut for the first time in seven years has not sunk in.
"What is it? Seven years? That's not too bad," he said. "I just tried to bandage my way to the finish. I figured it was even par, and I needed to make par."
Only three players have made more than 100 consecutive cuts -- Woods at 142, Nelson at 113, Jack Nicklaus at 105. The longest streak any of Woods' contemporaries have put together was Singh from 1995-98.
"It's probably more impressive than all the tournaments he's won," Parnevik said. "Most guys out here, you have one bad day and you go home. Even on a bad day, he was able to scramble around and make cuts. He probably has the toughest heart of anyone who ever played this game. That record will never be broken again."
It ranks behind some of the greatest streaks in sports -- Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Cal Ripken playing in 2,632 consecutive games and UCLA's basketball team winning 88 in a row.
It was surprising, not only because it had been seven years, but because Woods was coming off a playoff victory in The Masters for his ninth major.
But he noted that he tied for 23rd at Bay Hill and tied for 53rd at The Players Championship before winning at Augusta National, and he hardly sounded like he was ready to panic.
"The whole idea is to be ready for the U.S. Open," he said. "This is indicative of how I got ready for The Masters, unfortunately. I played terrible going into it, and then ended up winning. Hopefully, I can turn this around."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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