TURNBERRY, Scotland | Tiger Woods is headed home.
For just the second time in his professional career, the world’s top-ranked golfer missed the cut at a major championship Friday, posting a second-round 74 at Turnberry to fall one stroke short of the cut line at the 138th British Open.
“You have to play clean rounds of golf, and I didn’t,” said Woods, whose only other missed cut in a major as a pro came at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, in the aftermath of his father’s death. “I hit some bad tee shots, a couple bad iron shots and didn’t get it up and down. I kept making mistake after mistake. … Obviously, you can’t make mistakes and expect to not only make the cut but also try and win a championship.”
Fairfax native Steve Marino shot a 2-under 68 to move into a tie atop the leader board with Tom Watson, who carded a 70.
Woods began the day 1 over but started marching back into contention against the wind on Turnberry’s outward nine. When he carded a point-blank birdie at the par-5 seventh to reach par with most of the field moving backward, it seemed only a matter of time before the 14-time major champion jumped onto the bottom of the leader board.
“I was 1 under [on the day] after seven holes and just right there in the championship,” said Woods, who entered the week as a 9-4 favorite to collect his fourth claret jug. “Then I had a few tough holes right in a row and just couldn’t get it back.”
As was the case in Thursday’s opener on the 7,204-yard, par-70 links, Woods’ troubles began on the tee box, where he began missing right time and again. Blocked drives on Nos. 8 and 9 found Turnberry’s diabolical rough, resulting in a pair of bogeys that seemed like minor inconveniences before Tiger’s debacle at the 10th. On that hole, a frustrated Woods fanned a 3-wood dead right into a hillock covered with some of the thickest hay on the course.
Repeating a scene from the opening round of the 2003 British Open at Royal St. George’s, marshals, fans, members of the media and Woods himself spent the allotted five minutes combing the rough for his ball, finding two others, but not his Nike 1. The lost ball cost him a double bogey and pushed the 33-year-old up against the eventual cut line at 4 over.
But that didn’t end his spiral.
After a par at the 11th, Woods found a pot bunker off the tee at the 12th and played it safe with a 4 iron and finished with another bogey. And just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, he hit a weak bump-and-run pitch up a slope by the 13th green, watching helplessly as the ball rolled back to his feet. A second effort and a missed eight-footer later, Woods had another double bogey and, at 7 over, almost no chance.
However, Woods didn’t quit, posting back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th before his rally died one stroke short with yet another pushed iron off the tee at the 18th.
“I had some high numbers, and it cost me a chance at the weekend,” Woods said.
Though Woods arrived at Turnberry with two victories in his previous three starts, he never looked comfortable on the Ailsa Course. He uncharacteristically backed off shots, seemed uncommitted to his iron-centric plan off the tee and constantly found his arms well behind his body on his downswing. That “stuck position” forced him to either miss right or flip his hands at the bottom to compensate, producing a hard hook.
Woods now will focus his attention on next month’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine from Aug. 13 to 16, his final chance to avoid an 0-for-‘09 run in the majors.
In the meantime, he’ll have to listen to a month of speculation on his seemingly eroding relationship with swing instructor Hank Haney. The latter did not accompany Woods to Turnberry, the first time in their five-year partnership Haney hadn’t been at his side at a major.
Woods was in no mood to discuss such matters after Friday’s failure, turning his back on a rare futile chapter in his otherwise glorious career.