Pitiful. there was no other way to describe Tiger Woods' exit at the USPGA Championship here yesterday. Just when you believe this fallen icon has reached rock bottom, so the depths of golfing hell open to reclaim another chunk of his former reputation.
Woods now has the "Tiger Slam" of missed cuts at the majors. As a professional, this was the third time he has failed to reach the weekend of a big-four event (the 2009 Open and the 2006 US Open going with the 1996 Masters when he ducked out as an amateur). But this was very probably the worst of the worst, if only because of the supposed optimism he had coming into an event he has won on four occasions.
On Wednesday, Woods said he expected a "W". Three days, and 150 shots, on we realise it stood for "a whupping". Woods didn't come close to surviving. A 73 added to a 77 left him at 10-over, six shots the wrong side of the mark. It was the first time he had finished outside the top 100 in 62 majors as either a professional or an amateur.
In terms of scoring it wasn't as bad as the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot. But that was on a much more severe track, when he was coming back after a six-week break and was still grieving his father's death. Granted, this is only his second event after being sidelined for three months with injuries. Yet he was fit and he was willing. To think, Woods was three-under after five holes of his first round; he was 13-over for his last 31 holes.
As ever in the continuing dismantling of the phenomenon, the inquiry will now ask what happened. Woods can't blame his knee as he did when finishing 78th out of 80 at last year's WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He says he is 100 per cent and has not felt this healthy for "years". Of course, he will claim it was all because of the swing changes he has made with Sean Foley and will maintain he has been here before in the "process".
But he hasn't been here. This was humiliation as he tapped in 15 shots behind the clubhouse leaders, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley. There was a time Woods would beat an entire major field by 15 shots. Now, unbelievably, there were several club pros in front of him. The embarrassment was encapsulated with two double bogeys in succession just as he tried to create a back-nine miracle. He really was all at sixes and sevens on the 11th and 12th. Woods had birdied the eighth and ninth to make a fight-back at least seem vaguely possible. But then he found the fairway bunker on the 11th, then he found a greenside, then he skulled it into the water. A six.
If anything the seven on the par-five 12th was yet more red-faced. A wild hook into the trees, a chip out, a wild hook back into the trees, a recovery shot out, a wedge to the front of the green, two putts. He actually birdied the 13th and the 15th; but the latter owed so much to good fortune. So sure was Woods that he had located the water on the long par-three for a second time in two days, he turned his head away. Somehow it scraped over and rolled on to the back of the green, from where he holed the 15-footer. He raised his putter in mock celebration. Nobody ever thought they would see Tiger do that.
He put it in the water on the 18th as well, but by now it was all too painful to watch, particularly when one remembers what he was. Woods will have plenty of time to reflect. Much to the disgust of the sponsors, the TV execs, the audience and ultimately the entire PGA Tour, this week's dire show means he isn't even one of the 125 qualifiers for the end-of-season month-long play-offs. And, as Woods intends to sit out next week's Wyndham Championship, that indicates he won't play competitively for seven weeks. Not that he has been competitive here. He could come over to Europe to play. Certainly, he needs tournament practice.
In the almost macabre fascination of the Tiger travails it was all too easy to divert the attention from the other end of the leaderboard. This 93rd USPGA is turning out to be a veritable stampede. With an hour left of play last night there were 25 players within five shots of the lead. Most importantly for Britain these included the world No 2, Lee Westwood, who shot a 68 to move up to one-under. "I'm cruising into position," said the 38-year-old. The best-placed Euro was Anders Hansen, from Denmark, on three-under.
Back on three-over was Rory McIlroy. Considering his wrist sprain he sustained when smashing a seven iron into the root of a tree on the third hole of the first round, it is an achievement he is still in Georgia. A scan in a local medical centre on Thursday night revealed no serious damage so with his hand re-bandaged the new hero of golf set out in his gallant pursuit. McIlroy winced on occasion, finished with one hand on the club on many occasions and although his 73 forced his name down the scoreboard, his popularity in American only soared. "You cannot teach charisma," said his manager, Chubby Chandler.
In truth, McIlroy has also suffered on the greens of Atlanta Athletic Club. "I'm probably at about 70 to 75 per cent health wise, but no, I didn't putt very well at all," he said, after three birdies, three bogeys and a card-wrecking treble bogey on the 17th. "However, if I didn't think I could contend here I wouldn't still be playing. If I can get into red numbers tomorrow you know, shooting in the 60s and do something similar on Sunday – I feel as if I've got a good chance."
There was a time when Woods would utter such comments and we would believe him. McIlroy is not yet at the stage. Alas, Tiger appears well past it.
*Leading second-round scores from Atlanta Athletic Club (US unless stated)
135 J Dufner 70 65, K Bradley 71 64
136 D A Points 69 67
137 A Hansen (Den) 68 69, B Steele 69 68
138 J Vegas (Ven) 70 68, A Scott (Aus) 69 69
139 S Piercy 71 68, L Westwood (Eng) 71 68, D Love III 68 71
140 T Immelman (SA) 69 71, S Dyson (Eng) 68 72, J Wagner 71 69, M Wilson 69 71, B de Jonge (Zim) 68 72, G Woodland 70 70, R Fisher (Eng) 71 69
141 K Na 72 69, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 71, S-y Noh (S Kor) 71 70, S Garcia (Sp) 72 69, Y Ikeda (Japan) 73 68, R Palmer 71 70, H Frazar 72 69, J Edfors (Swe) 71 70, P Mickelson 71 70, S Levin 71 70, N Watney 70 71, L Donald (Eng) 71 70
142 R Sabbatini (SA) 73 69, C Schwartzel (SA) 71 71, R Allenby (Aus) 72 70, M Kuchar 71 71, A Romero (Arg) 72 70, M Manassero (It) 68 74, P Hanson (Swe) 71 71, P Harrington (Ire) 73 69, B Davis (Eng) 69 73, B Lunde 71 71
143 F Molinari (It) 72 71, B Molder 74 69, R McIlroy (N Ire) 70 73, B Crane 71 72, Z Johnson 71 72, R Fowler 74 69, P Larrazabal (Sp) 70 73, D Toms 72 71
144 C Kirk 72 72, K-t Kim (S Kor) 73 71, M Bradley 70 74, S Micheel 66 78, H Mahan 72 72, R Barnes 69 75, S O'Hair 71 73, M Small 73 71, Y E Yang (S Kor) 71 73, R Moore 75 69, J Rollins 72 72, K Streelman 73 71, E Molinari (It) 75 69
--------------PROJECTED CUT ----------------
145 J Day (Aus) 71 74, A Kim 74 71, J Rose (Eng) 71 74, B Gay 72 73, M Kaymer (Ger) 72 73, J Byrd 71 74, T Hiratsuka (Japan) 72 73, B Sowards 69 76, A Cabrera (Arg) 72 73
Selected: 146 E Els (SA) 74 72; 147 S Cink 69 78, M Laird 73 74; 150 L Oosthuizen (SA) 76 74; T Woods 77 73; 152 G McDowell (NI) 74 78; 154 D Clarke (N Ire) 78 76; 156 J-M Olazabal (Sp) 78 78