Tiger’s not laughing about his struggles

It’s been 10 weeks since Tiger Woods lost the No. 1 world ranking.

It just seems longer.

But time doesn’t stand still, in life or in golf.

As Woods continues to struggle — as he did again on Friday at the Cadillac Championship — the gap between him and the sport’s new world order widens.

Martin Kaymer is now not only ranked No. 1 but has confirmed himself as the best player in the game.

Since winning the PGA Championship in August at Whistling Straits, the young German has won three more tournaments around the world, helped Europe to a rousing Ryder Cup victory in Wales and finished second to Luke Donald at the Accenture Match Play two weeks ago in Arizona.

Kaymer, who finished tied for third here last year at Doral, is again lurking near the top of the leaderboard, as he seems to be doing every time he tees it up.

“I just really like to play golf,” he said Friday, “And especially the way I’m playing now. It’s tough to not enjoy it (when) you play good golf. Every week I feel like I have a chance to win.”

He shot a solid 70 in windy conditions Friday afternoon to go with his opening six-under 66. The 26-year-old is one shot adrift of midway leader Hunter Mahan.

And though he said he didn’t think about making a statement by beating the two Englishmen he was paired with — No. 2 Lee Westwood and No. 3 Donald — he didn’t have to think when asked by how many shots he bettered Westwood, from whom he took over the No. 1 ranking.

“Eight,” he said.

Mahan, whose scars are still fresh after flubbing a chip to lose to Kaymer in the Match Play, knows he’ll have his hands full this weekend.

“He’s just been playing amazing,” the American said of Kaymer’s ascendency.

“He’s not just playing great, he’s actually winning and that’s what sets the good and great players apart; the fact that he’s playing great and winning golf tournaments, he’s not just up there (finishing highly) every week.”

I asked Mahan what made Kaymer so formidable an opponent.

“He seems mentally tough and I think that’s what separates him,” he said.

“And he’s a great putter.”

That used to said of Woods, too.

Now, Woods not only can’t hole a putt — only Alvaro Quiros has been worse on the greens than Woods through two rounds — but has to endure being the butt of jokes.

During Friday’s round, he hit a snipe hook off the second tee that was generously measured as traveling 122 yards. It didn’t get past the ladies’ tees.

Playing partner Graeme McDowell estimated the low hook went 85 yards.

On the 14th, Woods popped up a 3-wood from the tee that McDowell guessed flew “about 120 (yards), max.”

“It’s pretty tough not to have a giggle,” the Irishman said, mischievously.

“Tiger actually hit two tee shots today that I would say combined didn’t go further than 200 yards.”

Woods wasn’t much in the mood for laughter, though. He finished the round at two over par to fall back to even for the tournament, in a tie for 34th.

“You’re not going to have a lot of fun when you’re nine back,” Woods said.

“I don’t know if a lot of people are very happy with that but I’m not.”

He wasn’t particularly happy when talking about the duck hook on two, either. But what annoyed him more was that he hit a beautiful 3-wood from 270 yards away, just right of the green, but couldn’t get up and down.

It’s becoming a familiar refrain with him.

“It’s not the first time I hit a snipe,” he said.

“Did it at the Masters. It is what it is. I hit a bad shot, no big deal, left myself with an opportunity to make par, and perfect angle and hit a bad pitch.”

Woods bemoaned his putting, which he knows is costing him dearly.

“If I just putt normal, I shoot three or four under par today,” he said.

But nothing’s very normal these days for Woods.