Once-mighty Tiger Woods played like a has-been in missing the cut on Friday at the PGA Championship, his comeback from injury resembling the failed final bows of Mike Tyson or Michael Jordan.
The 14-time major champion, in only his second event after left leg injuries suffered in April at the Masters force a layoff, shot three-over par 73 on Friday at Atlanta Athletic Club after opening on 77, his worst first round in a major.
“It’s a step back in the sense that I didn’t make the cut and I’m not contending in the tournament,” Woods said. “But it’s a giant leap forward in the fact that I played two straight weeks healthy.”
Woods will be gone for the weekend for only the third time in a major, also missing the cut at the 2006 US Open and 2009 British Open. But the spectacular shotmaking, thrills and excitement he produced in his prime never appeared.
Like former heavyweight boxing champion Tyson losing to second-rate fighters in his final bouts or six-time NBA champion Jordan in an ill-fated return with the Washington Wizards, Woods seldom showed flashes of his jaw-dropping best.
“I thought I could come in here and play the last couple of weeks and get it done somehow, but I need some work,” Woods said. “It has been frustrating that I have not been able to practice and work and obviously compete.”
Keegan Bradley, a rookie playing in his first major, fired a 64 to share the lead with fellow unheralded American Jason Dufner, who shot 65 after missing the cut in his past four starts, on five-under 135 through 36 holes.
“I’m teeing off and Tiger is on one — he is one of my idols,” Bradley said. “It’s cool to look around and see all these guys I’ve looked up to my whole life and be able to compete at the highest level with them.”
Dufner made mo apologies for being an unknown atop the leaderboard at the midpoint of a major.
“People want to see Tiger Woods. People want to see Phil Mickelson,” Dufner said. “But there are guys who can really play golf out here that are really good that you have never heard of.”
Americans DA Points, Scott Verplank and Jim Furyk were one stroke back along with Australian John Senden. Two adrift on 137 were Denmark’s Anders Hansen and Americans Brandt Jobe, Steve Stricker and Brendan Steele.
But all their feats were overshadowed by the downfall of Woods, who has not won any title since his secret sex life was revealed in November of 2009 and has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open.
Woods, who turns 36 in December, says he still expects to break the career record of 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus.
But he missed the cut by six shots. He hit only 12 fairways in regulation. He found 22 bunkers, found the water several times and made five double bogeys over his two days. Five of 20 club professionals in the field scored better.
Only 30 of the 153 players who completed 36 holes fared worse than Woods, who says what he needs is more time to work with swing coach Sean Foley. He will have it since he will miss the PGA playoffs and does not plan to play again until a trip to Australia in November.
“That’s great for our practice sessions coming up. We are going to be able to work and get after it, something unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do,” Woods said. “Now I’ll have nothing to do but work on my game.”
Reigning US Open champion Rory McIlroy, seen by some as golf’s next great star after his first major title came two months ago, played despite a right wrist tendon strain and shot a 73 to stand on 143.
“I wouldn’t say it was painful,” McIlroy said. “It was just a little uncomfortable.”
The 22-year-old Northern Irishman was injured Thursday when he struck a tree root with his second shot on the third hole, but played through the pain for an opening-round 70.
Australian Adam Scott put himself in the hunt for his first major title but a double-bogey at 18 dropped him into a pack on 138.
“It was disappointing to finish that way,” Scott said. “Overall, I’m really happy with two 69s and not far from the lead. It’s a good spot to be heading into the weekend.”
England’s World No 2 Lee Westwood shot a 68 Friday to stand on 139 after 36 holes and lead the charge for the “Chubby Slam”, a potential sweep of the year’s major titles by players managed by Andrew “Chubby” Chandler.
“I’m sort of cruising into position,” Westwood said. “Pleased with the way I played.”
Those missing the cut with Woods included Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the defending champion, and Masters and US Open runner-up Jason Day of Australia. — AFP