Woods gave up en route to missing cut
After he'd changed his shoes, Tiger Woods leaned back against his locker at the Quail Hollow Club, put on his dark wraparound sunglasses and stared straight ahead for a moment.
But there would be no hiding from this unpalatable truth.
Woods had imploded like a modern-day zeppelin over Charlotte.
He turned in a shocking 43 on the back nine at the Quail Hollow Championship, matching the worst nine holes of his 14-year career.
He'd hit two fairways in shooting 79 and missed the cut by eight shots. It wasn't just the long game that was in disarray; the malaise had spread throughout his bag.
"My short game was terrible," he said, "I three-putted there twice back-to-back, and you can't do that. I didn't get up-and-down at six and chipped the ball off the green at seven. You're just throwing away shots when you do stuff like that."
It was only the sixth time in 241 career starts that the world's No. 1 had missed the cut -- never by a margin this big -- and the first at a nonmajor since 2005. He finished ahead of only 11 players.
Laid-back Aussie Nathan Green was playing in the group behind Woods, and his mouth dropped when he got to the 16th tee and saw Woods was at 9-over-par for the tournament.
"I can get him if I bring it home," he joked, and parred out to beat Woods by two strokes.
That's what Woods has been reduced to: the butt of jokes from journeyman golfers.
If the scores weren't bad enough, it was obvious to anyone following him that Woods gave up.
He always prides himself on never "dogging it" on the golf course, but there's really no other way to characterize the way he slapped it around on the back nine.
After starting the inward nine with three straight bogeys and missing a birdie chance at the par-three 13th, Woods took out driver on the short par-four 14th, hung it out to the right, then tried to flop a wedge on an aggressive line that ran into the water.
After the ensuing double bogey, he drove into the fairway bunker on the next, took a nano-second to hit out of the trap, and proceeded to walk up the sloping fairway to his ball while his playing partners waited for the green to clear.
A sloppy chip left him 30 feet away for birdie, and from there he four-putted. The last three putts came from 3 feet.
Tiger Woods, of all people, was playing John Daly hockey on the greens.
"It's frustrating," Woods said. "I didn't have much. At that point in time [the cut] was pretty much out of reach, and I was just trying to stay out of (Angel Cabrera's) way. He's the one who's leading the golf tournament, and that's kind of what you're supposed to do.
"I was pretty calm, actually, because there's nothing you can do. I had to eagle out, but that's not going to happen."
Stewart Cink, who played with Woods, agreed it seemed Woods had raised the white flag and wanted to get onto the G550 back to Orlando as soon as possible.
"He had a hard time ... keeping the accelerator down on the back nine when things got out of hand," Cink said.
"That's the way it goes. He's obviously got things on his mind other than what's going on between the ropes right now."
Still, Cink said it was shocking to watch Woods fall apart like a mortal.
"I've seen him struggle like that off the tee, but he's usually the magician who gets the ball up and down and hits miraculous shots out of the trees and stuff," he said.
"But you've got to remember, he hasn't played a lot of golf since November, and it's hard to just come back and just be the magician instantly when you take that much time off. That's where being sharp really comes into play. This is tournament No. 2 of the year. I'm sure it's still in there."
Cink may be sure, but Woods needs to bounce back, and soon.
As he prepares for next weekend's The Players Championship, the question now becomes how much is the specter of divorce affecting his golf?
"If you're not in a great place mentally, it sometimes shows up out there," Cink said.
Woods said he has never been allowed to forget his personal life.
"Well, I get asked every day," he said. "Every day I do media, I get asked it, so it doesn't go away.
"Even when I'm at home, paparazzi still follow us, helicopters still hover around. Does it test you? Yes, of course it does. Is that any excuse? No, because I'm out there and I have the same opportunity as everybody else here in this field to shoot a good number, and I didn't do that."
Woods said he wasn't going to beat himself up too much.
"It does bother me, no doubt," he said, "[But] you have to let it go. It's like baseball, you go 0-for-4 two days in a row like I did, you've got a whole new tournament next week."