Yesterday could just have been the worst day of Tiger Woods's sporting life.
First the most influential sporting publication in America report that almost a quarter of his fellow pros who answered a question about him in a poll believe he has taken performance-enhancing drugs. Then he gets heckled for the first time since the scandal broke of all his extra-marital affairs. Lastly he misses a cut in a regular Tour event for the first time in five years with the worst two-round score of his professional career. You would not have fancied being a fire hydrant in the Charlotte area last night.
Since he hit one of those supposed safety devices outside his home last November his personal life has unravelled. Many suspected that as soon as he deigned to return to the fairways his professional existence would follow the same destructive spiral. Certainly the Quail Hollow Championship only bolstered these suspicions.
In the second round of his second comeback event after a self-enforced five-month absence, Woods shot a seven-over par 79. His nine-over total meant him sitting out the weekend of a tournament for just the sixth time in his 15-season career as a professional. None of them has been anywhere nearly as embarrassing as this.
Did the morning stories of that Sports Illustrated survey destroy his focus? Woods has emphatically denied using performance-enhancing drugs – and there is absolutely no evidence that the world No 1 ever has. But the magazine nevertheless posed the highly controversial, if not unethical, question : "Do you think Tiger used HGH or other performance-enhancing drugs?" to 71 of his fellow PGA Tour pros and of those who gave a response 24 per cent answered "yes" and 76 per cent answered "no".
Last year when recovering from knee surgery he was treated by a doctor who is now under federal investigation in the US for administering performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes. Woods said that Dr Anthony Galea used a legal blood- spinning technique to aid recuperation and he denied ever taking PEDs. That may explain the inclusion of the question in the magazine's poll.
That would hurt Woods; but not nearly as much as his golf. "It is what it is," he replied last night when asked if the rust or the technique were to blame. "Whatever it was, it wasn't good enough."
It was impossible to disagree. Woods has become used to breaking records, but yesterday they tumbled for all the wrong reasons. He has never taken 153 shots in two rounds before. Only once (in the carnage of the windswept third of the 2002 Open at Muirfield) has he ever taken more than 79 shots for a round. He has never missed the cut by eight shots before, trailing the halfway leader by 17 shots. He has never taken more than 43 shots on nine holes before yesterday's inward half. He has never hit just six fairways in 36 before.
And what made that hacker's charge-sheet all the more damning was that his playing partner Angel Cabrera shot a 67. That's a 12-shot defeat on the day, a 16-shot defeat on the two days.
Yet more than any of this it was the manner of the Tiger submission which shocked the game to the core. Even when he has missed cuts before he has shown at least a little fight (most recently at his two missed major cuts at the last year's Open at Turnberry and the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot). At Quail Hollow the tank was empty; the body language was of a boy lost.
He began with a birdie, just like he began with a birdie on Thursday. Thereafter the vultures mutilated his card, as his hooks and slices reduced his rhythm to shambles. In that back-nine horror show he dropped seven shots, including back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th. That's normally his allotment of disasters for 12 months. And as he was in meltdown, sending flop-shots into water and shoe-horning three-footers, a cruel taunt was replaying in the observers' minds. It came on the 10th and was shamelessly scripted.
"Get in the hole," one yob screamed. "That's what she said," his mate responded on cue. The security staff scrambled to locate the double act (they failed) and the warning went round – no more heckling. However, the damage had been done. It was inevitable Woods was going to be taunted, the only surprise was that it took 28 holes post-Augusta for the wisecracks to begin. The fear is there will be more to follow now. Particularly when he reaches the infamous island-green 17th at Sawgrass next week.
That is just one of his worries for the Players Championship, AKA "the fifth major". His remarkable fourth-place finish at Augusta three weeks ago is already a distant memory. As is the old Tiger Woods. Can he possibly recover his swing in five days? So much for wanting the attention to fall solely on his day job.Reuse content