Nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon: A new world for Tiger

Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2005

IRVING, Texas — Don't expect anyone to feel sorry for Tiger Woods, not even his friends.

Woods cleaned out his locker at the Byron Nelson Championship, the first time in more than seven years he left a tournament before it ended. Dozens of fans gathered in front of a scoreboard, gawking at the sight of his name among those who missed the cut.

How long had it been since that happened?

Greg Norman was No. 1 in the world the only other time Woods missed a 36-hole cut on the PGA Tour.

''Welcome to my world,'' said John Cook, a close friend and neighbor of Woods. ''I think I've only done that three or four times this year alone. Hey, this wasn't going to last forever.''

It sure seemed as though it would.

Woods shot a 76 in the second round of the 1997 Canadian Open, making a bogey on the last hole at Royal Montreal to miss the cut by one shot. He never missed another one — until Friday.

And even then, no one expected it.

The Four Seasons at Las Colinas came to a halt when Woods lined up a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole across the street at Cottonwood Valley, his last hope of extending his record streak to 142 tournaments in the money.

''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.''

The putt looked true, just like so many other pressure-packed moments involving Woods, but only for the first 12 feet. It stopped bending toward the right edge of the cup and straightened out, grazing the edge.

Say goodbye to the streak.

''It was a very frustrating round because I couldn't quite find where I needed to put the club in the right position to make a golf swing,'' Woods said after his 72 left him at 1-over 141. ''I was just trying to fly by night and kind of bandage my way through the finish. But I just didn't quite have it today.''

The bigger surprise is where it happened.

Woods never had finished worse than a tie for 12th at the Byron Nelson Championship, and he had been in the top 10 the last five times he played. He was still trying to pick up a few birdies to inch closer to the lead going into the weekend when everything fell apart.

First came a three-putt from 20 feet on No. 13, then a bogey from the bunker on No. 15. Needing a par on the final hole to make the cut, Woods hit a 7-iron from the middle of the fairway into a bunker just left of the pin, from where the best he could do was blast out to 15 feet.

Woods couldn't help but notice the irony of ending the streak at the tournament hosted by Nelson, whose 113 consecutive cuts was the standard for 55 years until Woods toppled it at the end of the 2003 season.

''What is it? Seven years?'' he asked. ''That's not too bad.''

The streak dates to the 1998 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where it rained so much that the third and final round of the tournament was postponed from February to August. Woods was among those who withdrew by not returning the day after the PGA Championship; the cut is made after 54 holes at Pebble because of the three-course rotation.

Even so, he would have needed a 65 that day to finish in the money.

During the seven-year cut streak, Woods won 37 times on the PGA Tour, won eight majors, changed his swing twice, switched every piece of equipment except his putter and got married.

He was asked to rank it among his other feats in golf — the only player to win three straight U.S. Junior Amateurs, making the Tour Championship in just seven tournaments after he turned pro, winning four straight majors.

''This is more intestinal fortitude than anything else,'' Woods said. ''Days when you just don't have it, you don't mail it in. You give it everything you've got. I don't care what kind of game you have, you somehow try and find a way to get it done. You've seen me do it over the years.''

Twice he was in danger of missing the cut with four holes to play in the second round and went on to win the tournament. Four other times he finished in the top 10.

''He's had off weeks and still had a chance to win,'' Cook said.

Woods' cut streak included 31 tournaments that had no cut, such as the World Golf Championships, the Tour Championship and the season-opening Mercedes Championships. Without those, his streak was 111, two short of Nelson.

Their generations were different.

Most argue that the fields are stronger and deeper than ever before on the PGA Tour. However, making the cut in Nelson's era meant getting paid, and tournaments often didn't pay out beyond 20th place. Not only did Nelson made 113 consecutive cuts, he never finished lower than a tie for 17th.

''I'm disappointed,'' Nelson said Saturday during the CBS Sports telecast. ''I knew sometime he was going to miss the cut. I'm unhappy about it only that he did it here.''

Three years ago, when Woods was still 34 cuts short of the record, he had a slippery 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Torrey Pines to make the cut on the number. Nelson watched that day from his home in Texas.

''He has the ability to make a shot or a putt, when he needs it real bad, better than anyone I know,'' Nelson said at the time. ''It shows one thing. He never quits, regardless of how bad he plays. He plays every shot like it means something.''

This putt meant plenty. But this is one putt Woods didn't make.

And now he has to start all over.

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