This was, without a doubt, the most uplifting missed cut of Tiger Woods' career.
After missing the last three months of the season—including the first two majors—Woods began his comeback from back surgery this week at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club. He shot a 74 on Thursday and a 75 on Friday to finish at seven over par and miss the cut by four strokes.
However, after he was sent packing, Woods still had a smile on his face when talking to reporters.
That's because even though his comeback began four weeks earlier than he had originally planned, he played 36 holes without any pain in his back. After the year (or six) he's had, he'll certainly take it.
According to USA Today, Woods enjoyed his return to competition:
"The back's great. I had no issues at all,"said Woods after his first round. "No twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic."
Shaking off the rust was a necessary step for Woods.
"I think the hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively," said Woods, who continues to get daily treatment for his back. "You play with your buddies all day for cash and stuff but it's just not the same. It's not the same as tournament golf."
Make no mistake about it, this was not the Tiger of old. He had no feel on his short game, he missed simple putts, and he made four bogeys in a row on the back nine on Friday. Despite a few flashes of brilliance, it was very obvious that he hadn't played tournament golf since the World Golf Championships in March.
But the positives far outweighed the negatives.
Woods told reporters in a press conference televised on Golf Channel that he was most concerned about his driving coming into Congressional. Those worries were alleviated, as he drove an average of 301 yards in his two days on the course.
Most importantly, Woods didn't experience any setbacks this week. He merely shook off some rust and figured out what he needs to work on ahead of the British Open next month.
Still, while there's no need to go anywhere near the panic button after this missed cut, it's noteworthy because it's such a rare occurrence. After all, Woods has more major titles in his career than missed cuts.
Going into Friday's round, Woods still had a chance to make the cut. He started at three over par and then quickly fell down the leaderboard after a double bogey on the fifth hole and another bogey on the eighth.
He looked to be bouncing back after back-to-back birdies at the ninth and 10th, but his dreams of making the weekend died with four bogeys on the next four holes.
Woods is such a stratospheric celebrity that everything he does is blown way out of proportion, but Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com tried to put things into perspective:
The hot sports takes flowed, however, as hot sports takes tend to do with Tiger. "He can't swing the same!" "He still looks hurt!" "He'll never catch Jack!" "Same old Tiger!"
He won five times last year, got hurt, and is on the mend. I think he's going to be fine. This isn't Tiger at the peak of his powers shooting 74-75 to miss the cut at the Masters. It's Tiger with very little practice trying to tune up his game for a major.
Instead of scrutinizing, the golf world should be rejoicing that Woods is back.
When he missed the first two majors of the year, there was concern that he wouldn't be back at all in 2014. After the abysmal television ratings for the Masters and the U.S. Open, that was a scary thought. The PGA Tour and particularly its sponsors are not ready for post-Tiger life.
No single athlete is more important to his or her sport. When he is around, there is a deafening buzz in the golf community. Everyone tunes in.
So, as every shot Woods hit over the past two days is analyzed to death by pundits and his swing is dissected by the masses, try to focus on the positive: Tiger Woods is back, he feels good, and he still has his heart set on Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships.
Whether or not he achieves the milestone, we're lucky enough to get to watch him try, starting next month at the British Open.
Woods was encouraged by the week, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be too.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!