Tiger Woods has never missed two halfway cuts in a row, but even he must be fearing it will happen in Florida next Friday. And two days later he might lose the world No 1 spot to Phil Mickelson, his great rival, as well. Both look like real possibilities after the way Woods tumbled to an error-ridden 79 on Friday and crashed out of the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina by a massive eight shots.
Woods looked to have suffered no ill-effects from a five-month lay-off following his marital problems when he finished fourth at the Masters but he has looked hopelessly out of sorts during his two rounds at Quail Hollow. He now has to regroup for The Players Championship, which starts on Thursday, and knows the spotlight will intensify following his poor showing. "Every day I do media I get asked it, so it doesn't go away," he said. "Even when I'm at home paparazzi still follow us, helicopters still hover around."
And he is not immune from the scorn of fellow golfers, either. Jesper Parnevik says Woods is not welcome at his house. It was Parnevik who introduced Woods to his Swedish wife, Elin Nordegren, a move he regretted publicly after reports emerged of Woods's marital infidelity. Parnevik told the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in an interview published on Friday that Nordegren who once worked as a nanny for his family regularly visits him and his wife at their Florida home but "Tiger is not welcome here any longer."
Tiger's seven-over par 79 was his worst score on American soil as a professional and second only to his 81 in foul weather during the 2003 British Open at Muirfield. He has never had a worse nine holes than his 43 on the inward half and the 36-hole total of 153 was the highest of his US PGA Tour career. It was only his sixth missed cut since he left the amateur ranks in 1996. Stewart Cink, the British Open champion, witnessed his Ryder Cup teammate's performance and said: "He's obviously got things in his mind other than what's going between the ropes right now.
"You've got to learn how to balance what's going on in your life with your golf. And if you're not in a great place mentally then it sometimes shows up out there. "I've seen him struggle like that off the tee, but he's usually the magician that gets the ball up and down from everywhere, hits some miraculous shots out of the trees and stuff. You've got to remember, he hasn't played a lot of golf since about November. It's hard to just come back and be the magician instantly."