Golf

Tiger, Lefty leave Greenbrier hanging

Robert Lusetich on Tiger Woods missing the cut at the Greenbrier Classic.
Robert Lusetich on Tiger Woods missing the cut at the Greenbrier Classic.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va

Jim Justice is a billionaire, No. 375 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans.

He’ll be a little poorer financially and a lot poorer spiritually after the two iconic golfers he coaxed into playing his Greenbrier Classic both missed the cut on Friday.

According to a source close to Justice, Tiger Woods was paid — indirectly, so as not to contravene PGA Tour rules that prohibit appearance fees — $1.8 million to sprinkle star dust on the Old White course this week.

For the second straight year, Justice indirectly paid Phil Mickelson $1 million and, for the second straight year, the Californian left the stately Greenbrier resort early after laying an egg.

Justice, a proud West Virginian, badly wants to elevate the Greenbrier Classic into a big-time tournament.

He fulfilled his end of the bargain by doing whatever he had to to bring the best players here but Woods and Mickelson didn‘t live up to their end.

Mickelson has now seven straight rounds over par, the longest slump of his 20-year career on the PGA Tour.

"I don't know what to say about that,'' the 42-year-old said after missing the cut by two shots.

“It hasn't been great. The parts don't feel that far off, but I haven't been putting them together.”

But while Mickelson’s been in a funk since turning in a 79 then controversially withdrawing from the Memorial so he could fly back to California and celebrate his wife‘s 40th birthday, Woods has won two of his past three tournaments.

He’s been looking like the Tiger of old.

But for two days on a hospitable layout that allowed 66 players — from a has-been like John Daly to a hero of yesteryear like Tom Watson to an unknown rookie like Charlie Beljan — to finish in red numbers, Woods looked lost again.

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He finished at even par to miss the cut by a single stroke.

U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson topped the leaderboard at 9 under when play was suspended because of darkness in the round that was delayed because of rain.

Woods had a multitude of chances on Friday to make it to the weekend, but he just couldn’t take them.

As he flew back to Florida on his Gulfstream jet Friday night, he could look in many places for that single shot he needed.

The three-putt on the third hole, the unfathomably dumb bogeys on 10 and 11, missing the greens after beautiful drives, the missed eight footer on 15, the fact that he left his birdie try short on the par-5 17th.

If there was a theme to his two rounds, it was that he drove the ball, as he likes to say, on a string but with short irons in his hand, he looked clueless.

“I just did not have a feel for the distances,” a bewildered Woods said.

“The ball was just going forever.

“I know it’s hot, I know we’re at altitude but my sand wedge is going 142, 145; (pitching) wedge is 160.

“These are numbers that I don’t normally hit.”

First World problems.

There will be a temptation to draw conclusions about what has happened to Woods on two warm summer days in West Virginia.

Alarm bells will undoubtedly sound, ringing with statistics: this is only the ninth missed cut of Woods’ career, but the second this year.

But don’t read too much into what was more of a sloppy performance rather than one that betrayed any cracks.

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“He actually played really well,” said Simpson.

“He just had some distance control problems.

“It’s tough to come here for the first time I think to really trust the numbers because the ball really does go a long ways.

“I think he’ll continue (to play well) in most of the tournaments he plays the rest of this year. His game looks good to me.”

It might help Woods if he isn’t paired with Simpson anymore.

The first time they played together, in the final round at Doral, Woods was forced to withdraw with achilles problems. They were also paired at Quail Hollow where Woods missed the cut.

“That’s not a streak that’s going to last,” said Simpson’s caddie, Paul Tesori.

And while it didn’t go well for Woods on the course, there was a silver lining to his few days here.

Woods had a good few nights at the Greenbrier’s casino, taking Jim Justice for several hundred thousand dollars.

Or, I should say, another few hundred thousand.

None of it will make Justice happy, but luckily for him, he’s still a billionaire.
 

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson

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