He knew, well before it was official, that it was too much to ask that the cut line would move up to five over par and that, consequently, he would not be playing on the weekend at a major for only the second time as a professional (and only the first time without a legitimate reason given the death of his father and mentor, Earl, prior to the 2006 U.S. Open).
Woods gritted his teeth and stepped forward to face the media scrum, his metaphorical firing squad, and didn’t ask for a blindfold.
“I just made mistakes,” he said of his catastrophic second-round 74, “And obviously you can’t make mistakes and expect to not only make the cut but also try and win a championship. You have to play clean rounds of golf and I didn’t.”
And therein lies the truth of perhaps the most shockingly disappointing day of Tiger Woods’ career in majors.
His demise came entirely at his own hands.
It didn’t happen because he was on the wrong side of the draw, as was the case at Bethpage. Everyone had to deal with the howling winds on Friday which whipped off the Irish Sea and turned Turnberry treacherous.
It didn’t happen because Woods lipped out putts or didn’t have his swing all week — like at Augusta — because he had it working serviceably for large stretches.
It wasn’t the fault of his swing coach, Hank Haney, who didn’t accompany him to a major for the first time since they began their association.
No, this debacle, I’m afraid, was all on Tiger.
He has to ask himself how he could play so well and with such confidence in winning tournaments like the Memorial and AT&T, and then seem so hesitant and unsure of himself just weeks later at majors.
“You don’t often see him play shots like that, some of the shots he played,” said Lee Westwood, who played alongside Woods in both rounds.
“But everybody is entitled to a bad day every now and again. It happens to all of us. It’s difficult out there.”
Is Tiger Woods really entitled to a bad day every now and again? Does capitulation happen to him when he’s on the grandest stage and in his hour of need? And when has it ever mattered to Woods how difficult it is?
Two things strike me as I think back on these past two days. The first is that Woods on Thursday was far too cautious when the course was there to be had. If Tom Watson can shoot 65 at the age of 59, then Tiger Woods can do a lot better than 71.
He gave up far too much ground to the field in the opening round and, as such, his margin for error was so small that he couldn’t afford any stumbles when the playing conditions deteriorated.
The other is that Woods completely fell apart midway through his second round after having given no indication that he was even in distress.
Indeed, he was at one under par for his round — even for the tournament — after making birdie on the par 5 7th.
It seemed to those who have watched him that he was, as is his wont, getting ready to make his patented move up the leaderboard. Even five shots off the lead, he was still the favorite.
“I was playing those first seven holes dead into the wind and I was playing those holes well,” Woods would later confirm.
He wasn’t the only player to bogey the 8th and 9th holes, though no one at the top gave away shots on both. But it was at the 10th, a brutal hole in which the fairway slopes the way the wind was blowing off the ocean, requiring a hard draw off the tee, that Woods’ fate was sealed.
His wayward tee shot — about the furthest thing imaginable from a hard draw — found the long hay to the right of the fairway and, despite a search party that must’ve numbered nearly 100, his ball was never found.
Woods knew it was bad because he immediately hit a provisional. Even though he got up-and-down from 50 yards, it still amounted to a double bogey.
Woods also lost a ball at the Open at Royal St George’s six years ago. While that cost him a shot at winning the Claret Jug, this one cost him a shot at making the cut.
After a par on 11 and another bogey on 12, Woods had a chance to right his ship on the 13th, his tee ball stopping 159 yards from the green.
The shot played dead downwind, and Woods misjudged it, sailing the approach over the green.
From there, he chipped into the bank of the elevated green but didn’t give the strike enough weight. It came rolling back down the slope. An exasperated Woods putted the next one and missed an eight-footer for bogey.
It was the perfect way to end the worst stretch of his career: six holes played in an astounding seven shots above par.
At seven over for the tournament, Woods should’ve realized that he was finished. But like the punch drunk prizefighter who never knows when he’s had enough, Woods is too stubborn and too proud to take the count.
He made birdie at the 16th, finding the bottom of the cup from 15 feet, then tapped in for birdie on the easy par 5 17th. He missed the green on the last and watched in despair as his birdie chip stopped short of the cup.
“It was just problem after problem, I kept compounding my problems,” Woods said later.
“Unfortunately, when you go through patches like that, you’ve got to play those holes either even par, 1 over par, even sometimes under par, and I went the other way. I had some high numbers and it cost me a chance on the weekend.”
What it also cost him is a another chance at a major in his comeback year. And so he’s stuck on 14 majors, four behind Jack Nicklaus.
“I just haven’t put together all four rounds, and you have to play clean in order to win a major championship. I haven’t done that. You have to do that in order to win majors, and that’s what I’ve done before on all my major wins.”
So now, his lonely eyes turn to Minneapolis and Hazeltine, site of next month’s PGA Championship, as important a test as Tiger Woods has ever faced.