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Tiger Woods heads home after missing cut in Atlanta

- Associated Press - Friday, August 12, 2011

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Hardly anyone knows the two guys leading the PGA Championship.

No one even recognized Tiger Woods.

Once identified by either his No. 1 ranking or his 14 majors, Woods missed the cut Friday at Atlanta Athletic Club with a performance that was even more shocking because of the numbers he compiled.

He hit into 22 bunkers. He put four balls in the water. His five double bogeys were the most he ever made in one tournament.

With one final bogey for a 3-over 73, Woods finished out of the top 100 for the first time ever in a major. He was 15 shots behind Jason Dufner, who has never won a PGA Tour event, and Keegan Bradley, playing in his first major.

"I got some time off again," said Woods, who doesn't expect to tee it up again until the Australian Open in November.

Based on the last two days, he has a lot of work to do.

Dufner, who hasn't made a cut since the last week in May, holed a 25-foot eagle putt on the fifth hole and threw in five birdies for a 5-under 65 that put him atop the leaderboard for the first time in a major. Bradley, a tour rookie and the nephew of LPGA great Pat Bradley, did even better with a bogey-free round of 64.

They played a game with which Woods is no longer familiar.

Even as Steve Stricker followed up his record-tying 63 with a 74, and as Rory McIlroy made it through another round with a heavily taped right wrist, Woods captivated the crowd on another steamy day in Atlanta.

There were times the fans wanted to cover their eyes.

Woods blasted out of a bunker and went into the pond on the other side of the green for a double bogey. On his next hole, he hooked his drive into the trees, chipped out sideways, then hit a snap-hook back into the trees for another double bogey.

At least he went out in style — one more bunker off the tee at No. 18, one more shot into the pond fronting the green.

He was angry Thursday when he opened with a 77. He looked numb when he left.

"Obviously frustration, disappointment that I'm not contending in the tournament," Woods said.

Now the only question is when — and where — he will play next.

Woods failed to qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs, which he has won two of the last four years, meaning he is ineligible for any PGA Tour event for the next six weeks. The next tournament on his schedule is the Australian Open, starting Nov. 10, although he would not rule out playing somewhere — perhaps a Fall Series event — before then.

Meantime, it's back to practice.

"Now I'll have nothing to do but work on my game," he said. "That's going to be good."

It was only the seventh time he has failed to qualify for the weekend in 227 tournaments worldwide, and the third time in a major. He completed only one major this year, a tie for fourth at the Masters.

Woods left behind a championship that has 16 players under par, all of them separated by only four shots, even if the mainstream sporting audience might not be familiar with the some of the names.

Bradley, who won the Byron Nelson Championship in May and contended last week at Firestone, and Dufner were at 5-under 135. They will be in the final group, playing behind D.A. Points (67) and John Senden (68), who were in the group one shot behind.

"These guys are all great players," Bradley said. "It's not like they just kind of stumbled up there. They've been out here a long time. Probably tomorrow ... it will be a little more relaxing than if I was playing with Tiger or Phil, but they're great players, and I'm sure they're good guys."

Phil Mickelson, who finished one shot behind on this course 10 years ago, was moving closer to the lead until he dumped his approach on the 18th hole into the water and took double bogey for a 70. He was still only six shots behind.

The leaderboard is not devoid of experience.

Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion having his worst season since he was a rookie, emerged from his slump with a 65 and was in the group at 4-under 136 that included Scott Verplank, a former U.S. Amateur champion.

Verplank has been coping with wrist and elbow injuries longer than he cares to remember, but he's always been a good putter and that carried him to the outright lead for much of the afternoon. He couldn't cope with bunkers and rough along the back nine, though he left the course in good spirits after laying up on the 18th and scratching out a par.

Another shot back was Stricker, who was 11 shots worse than his record-tying start, but still in the mix.

Stricker opened this major by going 20 straight holes without a bogey until he started missing putts on the edge of the cup. He still was in good shape, tied for the lead, until dropping two more shots at the end of his round, including a shot into the water on the 18th for bogey. He had a 74 and was in the group at 3-under 137.

"I was on the other end of the spectrum today where it was tough going all the way around," he said. "But if we would have shot 2 under yesterday and 1 under today, we'd be feeling pretty good. The way we got there wasn't ideal, but we're still in there, only a couple back, and anything could happen on the weekend."

Woods is gone, but his ex-caddie will have a late tee time. Adam Scott, who hired Steve Williams for his bag, made a strong move into contention until a blunder on the last hole. Trying to lay up with a punch shot under the trees, it came out too hot and went into the front of the water. Scott finished with a double bogey for a 69 and was still only three shots behind.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and both trying to win their first major, are still very much in the picture. Westwood quietly pieced together a 69 and was at 1-under 139, while Donald shot 71 and was only six shots out of the lead.

"I thought at the start of the week, 6 under was going to win the tournament," Westwood said. "It may still do. I'm sort of cruising into position."

McIlroy still thinks he has a chance, too.

It was big news when the U.S. Open champion showed up on the range about 30 minutes before his tee time, his right wrist taped from his decision — a bad one, he conceded — to hit a 7-iron through a tree root on Thursday. McIlroy only strained a tendon — tests did not reveal even a partial tear — and the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland did not want to stop playing the final major.

His wrist looked fine. His putting was another story.

McIlroy three-putted three times on his way to a 73, the most untimely of those coming on the par-3 17th after he hit into the water. That gave him a triple bogey and killed his momentum, but not his optimism.

"If I don't think I could contend, I probably wouldn't be playing," he said.

Woods isn't the only one headed home early. Defending champion Martin Kaymer was among three players from the top 10 in the world to miss the cut — the others were Jason Day and Dustin Johnson.

But even after being gone for three months until last week at Firestone, and expectations lower than they have ever been for Woods in a major, no one expected this.

In his 13 previous appearances in this major, Woods made only 11 double bogeys in 936 holes. He made five double bogeys in the opening 30 holes at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Barring another start, he will have finished only 22 rounds of stroke play on the PGA Tour this year.

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