Reality of missed cut dawns on forlorn Tiger

The only words that mattered at the US Open yesterday were simple but stunning. Tiger Woods has missed his first cut in a major as a professional. And as golf heard them, jaws hit fairways everywhere.

A second successive 76 for a 12-over total made certain of it after a morning when the world No 1 cast a sad shadow of his usual, peerless self. The death of his father last month has obviously taken a great deal out of him, even if only in the lack of preparation caused by a near 10-week absence from tournament play.

As ever, though, this proudest of competitors refused to seek refuge in that excuse and although Woods continued to grumble about the slow greens, that he and others believe are not in keeping with the sleek putting surfaces of US Open tradition, he was certain what had ended his great streak. "I'm pissed off," he said. "It wasn't rust, nothing to do with it. I just didn't put it all together at the right time. I've gone a while without missing one, but I have missed one now."

And so the chance to take a record off Jack Nicklaus has eluded him. The pair will now be tied on 39 consecutive cuts made in the majors until some other Untouchable comes along and dares touches them. Not since the 1996 Masters - when he was an amateur just out of his teens - has Woods been absent the last two rounds at one of the Big Four. To say it will not be the same without him is a ghastly understatement. Woods has become as much of a fixture on a major weekend as Saturday and Sunday.

In fact, a quick peer down the stats sheet reveals his incredible consistency has not been preserved solely for the main events. In nearly 250 tournaments before this week he had missed just three cuts and last year he broke the record for the most made on the bounce when 142 wiped Byron Nelson's name from the record books.

Furthermore, his 12-over score was his worst ever as a professional through 36 holes, just as 12 bogeys were the most he has taken in two rounds - anywhere. It was little consolation to him that it has taken an absolute monster of a course here to bring him down.

He did admit, however that "this place is playing real, real hard" and that "the marginal shots just kill you". But still he was furious that it was Tiger Woods most to blame for toppling Tiger Woods. "I felt if I just kept plodding along I could turn it around," he said. "I made three great saves on the 18th [his ninth], the first and the third, but to no avail."

Those up-and-downers did verge on the miraculous but too many of his other shots - chiefly his drives - tipped over the brink of mediocrity. In two days he hit just seven of 28 greens and as an instance of his waywardness on the 16th he was forced to play his approach from the adjoining course. For long periods you truly could not see Woods for the trees. But surely personal tragedy made it all irrelevant? Not likely.

"What's happened off the course recently might have given me a different type of perspective," he sort of admitted. "But poor execution is never going to feel very good." Even, you felt, when he was in good company as Michael Campbell, the defending champion, was on the same mark and also heading home.

By then, Winged Foot was gobbling up reputations with giant belches. David Howell was sitting pretty at two-over with nine remaining - until he chucked in a pig ugly 41 on the back half to fall to eight-over to scrape inside the cut. Again it was the last four holes that did for him. Yesterday he gave five shots away on the final quartet. On Thursday it was "just" four.

At least his countryman Kenneth Ferrie was right up there on two-under through nine, joining Colin Montgomerie, the overnight leader, in contention. Phil Mickelson - who has suddenly been presented with a Tiger-free path to his third consecutive major - was also chasing his fellow American Steve Stricker, who held the clubhouse lead on one-under after an impressive looking 69.

But no matter what any of them were to do would not seem nearly as important as normal. No, this was all about Tiger and the day a chunk of his huge aura was lost forever. "What do I do now?" he said. "Practice. Hopefully I can win the British Open."

US Open scores from Winged Foot

EARLY SECOND-ROUND SCORES

(GB or Irl unless stated)

139 S Stricker (US) 70 69.

141 G Ogilvy (Aus) 71 70.

144 S Hend (Aus) 72 72; B Bryant (US) 72 72.

145 D Clarke 73 72; M A Jimenez (Sp) 70 75.

146 F Funk (US) 71 75; C Villegas (Col) 74 72; C Schwartzel (SA) 74 72.

147 J Haas (US) 75 72; J B Holmes (US) 74 73; E Els (SA) 74 73; B Van Pelt (US) 72 75; C Collins (US) 76 71.

148 W Austin (US) 72 76; S Jones (US) 74 74; C Howell 77 71; S O'Hair (US) 76 72; K Perry (US) 77 71; S Kendall (US) 73 75; D Howell 70 78; L Williams (US) 75 73.

149 J M Singh (Ind) 73 76; T Armour (US) 79 70; T Pernice (US) 79 70; P Casey 77 72; B Crane (US) 77 72; B Curtis (US) 78 71; T Herron (US) 73 76; R Imada (Japan) 76 73; S Gangluff (US) 76 73.

150 J Delsing (US) 78 72; A Doyle (US) 76 74; S Ames (Can) 72 78.

151 D Waldorf (US) 75 76; C Pavin (US) 76 75; S Appleby (Aus) 72 79; M Hensby (Aus) 73 78; K J Choi (S Kor) 76 75; J Mallinger (US) 77 74.

152 Tiger Woods (US) 76 76; T Takayama (Japan) 77 75; B Estes (US) 80 72; M Campbell (NZ) 75 77; O Browne (US) 80 72; C DiMarco (US) 76 76; P Jacobsen (US) 76 76; K Stadler (US) 71 81; Taylor Wood (US) 74 78; N Green (Aus) 77 75; *B Horschel (US) 75 77.

153 B Quigley (US) 80 73; M Brooks (US) 78 75; *E Molinari (It) 77 76; C Pettersson (Swe) 77 76; T Ridings (US) 77 76; G Kraft (US) 76 77; D White (US) 78 75.

154 M Kuchar (US) 78 76; T Lehman (US) 78 76; N Fasth (Swe) 78 76; L Janzen (US) 82 72.

155 J Sindelar (US) 79 76; T Hamilton (US) 77 78.

156 O Wilson 80 76; S Garcia (Sp) 78 78; J Allred (US) 78 78; T Hurst (US) 78 78.

157 G Storm 81 76; T Taniguchi (Japan) 75 82.

159 M Lafeber (Neth) 76 83; M Calcavecchia (US) 80 79; G McNeill 77 82.

160 D Oh (US) 83 77.

161 *R Baca (US) 78 83; M Derminio (US) 81 80.

162 *R Posey 84 78; A Bare (US) 84 78.

Withdrawn: D Toms (US).

First-round scores

69 C Montgomerie.

70 J Furyk (US), P Mickelson (US), S Stricker (US), M A Jimenez (Sp), D Howell.

71 K Ferrie, G McDowell, V Singh (Fiji), M Weir (Can), J Cook (US), F Funk (US), K Stadler (US), G Ogilvy (Aus).

72 A Scott (Aus), B Mayfair (US), T Bjorn (Den), P Archer, P Hedblom (Swe), C Barlow (US), J Dufner (US), W Austin (US), S Hend (US), S Appleby (Aus), S Ames (Can), B Bryant (US), B Van Pelt (US).

73 K Jones (US), R Allenby (Aus), F Couples (US), Z Johnson (US), P Harrington, R Pampling (Aus), J M Singh (Ind), M Hensby (Aus), D Clarke, T Herron (US), S Kendall (US).

74 I Poulter, A Cabrera (Arg), R Sabbatini (Arg), P McGinley, R Beem (US), J Sluman (US), A Morse (US), J B Holmes (US), C Villegas (Col), S Jones (US), E Els (SA), C Schwartzel (SA), Taylor Wood (US).

75 A Svoboda (US), D J Trahan (US), K Fukabori (Japan), R Green (Aus), N O'Hern (Aus), L Glover (US), J M Olazabal (Sp), S Cink (US), H Stenson (Swe), A Oberholser (US), D Waldorf (US), J Haas (US), T Taniguchi (Japan), M Campbell (NZ), L Williams (US), *B Horschel (US).

76 B Jobe (US), C Campbell (NZ), S Verplank (US), R Mediate (US), D Love (US), T Immelman (SA), D Wilson (US), M Harris (US), C Hoffman (US), B Hayes (US), M Lafeber (Neth), C Pavin (US), A Doyle (US), Tiger Woods (US), S O'Hair (US), P Jacobsen (US), C DiMarco (US), K J Choi (S Kor), R Imada (Japan), S Gangluff (US), G Kraft (US), C Collins (US).

77 J J Henry (US), S Micheel (US), T Clark (SA), J Leonard (US), D Duval (US), R Goosen (SA), *J Moore (US), D Berganio Jnr (US), J Randhawa (Ind), *A Coe (US), T Takayama (Japan), B Crane (US), P Casey, *E Molinari (It), T Hamilton (US), C Howell (US), C Pettersson (Swe), K Perry (US), G McNeill (US), T Ridings (US), N Green (US), J Mallinger (US).

78 T Purdy (US), N Dougherty, L Donald, B Fritsch (US), J Delsing (US), M Brooks (US), M Kuchar (US), T Lehman (US), B Curtis (US), N Fasth (Swe), S Garcia (Sp), T Hurst (US), J Allred (US), *R Baca (US), D White (US).

79 C Nallen (US), S Lowery (US), D Toms (US), J Koskinen (US), S Woodard (US), T Armour (US), T Pernice (US), J Sindelar (US).

80 O Wilson, B Quigley (US), B Estes (US), M Calcavecchia (US), O Browne (US).

81 N Thompson (US), M Goggin (Aus), S Katayama (Japan), N Price (Zim), P Nagle (US), M Muthiya (Zam), *T Fujikawa (US), G Storm, M Derminio.

82 R Johnson (US), L Janzen (US).

83 J Rollins (US), T Oh (S Kor).

84 *R Posey, A Bare (US).

85 *D Dougherty (US).

86 P Tataurangi (NZ).

* denotes amateur

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