Woods stumbled out of the gates, winced at his back swing after swing and never was able to turn things around. He missed the cut after a three-over-par round of 74 that left him six strokes over par for the tournament, sending him home after just two days at Valhalla Golf Club.
He finished strong with his only two birdies on No. 15 and 18, but an ugly early double bogey set the tone for disappointment on a day when he needed a subpar score.
ESPN Stats and Information noted his missed cut:
This is the 4th time that Tiger Woods has missed the cut in a major as a pro (last was 2011 PGA Championship)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 8, 2014
Here's how he shot it on Friday:
Hampered by his surgically repaired back, Woods simply wasn't himself and all it took was watching one swing to be able to tell. But as ESPN's Bob Harig tweeted, it's in his head, too:
The back is bothering Tiger, but so is his brain. And the back problems might be related to the brain problems. Either way, none of it good— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) August 8, 2014
Perhaps even more alarming for Tiger fans is his lengthy major drought, which is putting him far behind the pace of catching Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors as Golf Digest's Ron Sirak illustrated:
26 majors since Tiger won 2008 US Open. Nicklaus' longest drought 20 between Nos. 17 & 18. Jack had 15 majors at age 38 to 14 for Tiger.— Ron Sirak (@ronsirak) August 8, 2014
Here's the full leaderboard:
As it looked, Tiger conceded afterwards that he felt the same pain as in Sunday's final round of the WGC-Bridgestone, per Fox Sports' Robert Lusetich:
Woods told Golf Channel's Ryan Lavner why he didn't withdraw after the pain kicked in:
Tiger says his back went out again on the range at Valhalla. Why he played: "I'm not exactly a non-stubborn person."— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) August 8, 2014
More Tiger, after a missed cut at the PGA: "I tried as hard as I could. That's all I've got."— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) August 8, 2014
The problems didn't ensue immediately for Woods, although he was able to hide his back pain early on and save par after some poor tee shots. But on the fourth, he began losing it.
He missed a manageable par putt on No. 4 for his first bogey of the day, and that started a trend. A lengthy par miss on the sixth hole turned into a double bogey when an attempt from about four feet cupped out. All of the sudden, he had conceded three strokes in six holes and was six over par.
Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde had to correct himself after Tiger's miss, mistakingly assuming he was going to make the gimme:
Tiger is plus-5 after six holes today. Projected cut line is plus-1. Get the jet ready.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) August 8, 2014
Correction, he's plus-6 after missing a gimme putt. Ugly.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) August 8, 2014
Here's a video of the bad miss:
He continued to sputter onto hole No. 7, and for the first time all round his back was obviously hindering him after every swing. Woods awkwardly messed with his posture walking between shots, and altered his follow-throughs—as to indicate serious pain in his surgically-repaired back.
Woods went on to bogey the seventh and par the eighth, with his pain noticeably hampering him everywhere from his swings to picking the ball out of the cup after made putts.
A horrible four-hole stretch prompted the following tweet from Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker:
OFFICIAL STATEMENT: Wheels are completely off. Huge fore left. Ugh...— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 8, 2014
Heading into the ninth hole, Woods was far off the pace to make the cut and deteriorating. After finishing the front nine, would he call it quits?
Golf Channel's Ryan Lavner captured the humor in Woods' walk to the 10th tee:
Tiger clearly hurting as he plays his 9th hole. To get to No. 10, he has to walk directly past his car. Tempting.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) August 8, 2014
But instead of bogeying again, hopping in his car and riding off, he nearly birdied the ninth before settling for par.
He trotted through the parking lot and received an ovation just for making it to the 10th—no matter if he went four shots over par on the front nine alone.
Woods continued on, but not without continued pain and struggling as ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski noted:
Tiger plays on. But there's no way to pretend that something's not right with his back, and certainly not with his game.— Gene Wojciechowski (@GenoEspn) August 8, 2014
So far off the cut line much less the lead, there were also many wondering why Woods didn't just save himself risk of further injury by withdrawing—including Jim Rome:
Tiger's clearly no longer able to defend himself. When's the ref going to jump in and stop this fight?— Jim Rome (@jimrome) August 8, 2014
Also among those saying Tiger should call it quits were some of the on-air announcers, which ESPN's Stuart Scott took exception to. Here's his spirited defense of the 14-time major champ:
TNT crew askin Y is Tiger still playing is absurd. He's an athlete fighting pain, doesn't want to stop...Ur S'POSED 2 keep on till u can't.— Stuart Scott (@StuartScott) August 8, 2014
And here's Scott again, after more questions from the analysts:
Again announcers..askin "wattaya think is keepin Tiger out there?"--that's AFTR HE STUCK IT WITHIN 6ft. His JOB/PASSION keepin him out there— Stuart Scott (@StuartScott) August 8, 2014
Steve Flesch of Golf Channel analyzed his pairing with Phil Mickelson might have helped motivate Tiger:
If anyone is wondering why TW is still playing it's his pairing. No way he'd walk off while playing with Phil. Sign of weakness. #warrior— Steve Flesch (@Steve_Flesch) August 8, 2014
Neither Woods nor Mickelson were on their game early, as told by both hitting fans in the gallery on the same hole:
As Woods started to get his game together after woeful stretch, signs of his back pain began to lessen. However, he kept finding himself in the rough over and over; it was all he could to do to keep his holes around par.
Seven straight pars allowed Woods to settle down, but didn't do anything to erase his seven-over par score for the tournament that hung over him. He wasn't getting any closer to the cut line with his pars, making his departure even more inevitable.
And with Rory McIlroy in position to win again, former Atlanta Braves great Chipper Jones made an eyebrow-raising prediction:
But I got a feeling there is a new Tiger Woods in town.......and his name is @McIlroyRory— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) August 8, 2014
Though far from competing with the top golfers, Tiger did find himself improving as he got closer to his elimination, seeming to play his best golf in the final few holes.
He finally starting gaining strokes back on No. 15, when he dropped in his first birdie of the day.
The Tiger Tracker was understandably excited to report it:
Hey, want to hear a secret? I just Tiger make his first birdie of the day. It was on No. 15. Swear it just happened.— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 8, 2014
Then, a hole later, he gave it right back:
Tiger's short game is still just terrible. Failed to get up and down from routine spot. Left chip 6 feet short and missed it. Bogey. #7over— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 8, 2014
Tiger finished much better than he started, shooting one-under par on the back nine after a tap-in birdie on the 18th to finish in style. But it wasn't nearly enough to stick around Valhalla for two more days.
ESPN's Skip Bayless admitted his wrong prediction, while capping Woods' unfortunate reality:
When Tiger said he was pain free, I thought he'd play well at PGA w/ no expectations. But limped thru 2nd round. Sad shell of former self.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) August 8, 2014
All in all, Woods' two rounds at Valhalla went about as most planned. He struggled to find many—if any—birdies, constantly missed fairways and grimaced at his back pain often.
Should Tiger shut it down for 2014?
The 38-year-old faced a short timetable to recover after withdrawing from the WGC-Bridgestone on Sunday. It was commendable that he made it back on the course for Thursday's opening round, but it's obvious something just isn't right.
Though it is worth noting that Woods stuck it out and finished the round despite his back pain getting the best of him early on. And not only did he finish, but regathered himself and concluded his round better than he began it.
Woods still has a few PGA Tour events left if he wants to play his way into Tom Watson's good graces and make the Ryder Cup team. But if his declining game and health problems are any indication, he might be best served to take the rest of 2014 off.