Wobbly Woods feeling the heat

Tiger Woods has never in his life missed two halfway cuts in a row, but he must be fearing it will happen in Florida on Friday.

Two days later he might lose the world number one spot to his great rival Phil Mickelson as well.

Both look real possibilities after the way Woods tumbled to an error-ridden 79 last night and crashed out of the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina by a massive eight shots.

So much for his fourth place finish at The Masters earlier this month showing that a five-month lay-off and a sex scandal that shocked the world would not affect him on the course.

And as he tries again at the Players Championship starting Thursday he knows the attention on his private life will be there again.

“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.

“Does it test you? Yes, of course it does. Is that any excuse? No, because I’m out there and I have the same opportunity as everybody else here in this field to shoot a good number.

“And I didn’t do it.”

The 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 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 Tour career.

It was only his sixth missed cut since he left the amateur ranks in 1996 and this one was accompanied by the first real heckle of his comeback.

Police escorted away a spectator who, according to a friend, had said “No red shirt for you on Sunday” as Woods left the 17th green.

Open champion Stewart Cink witnessed his Ryder Cup team-mate’s performance and commented: “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.”

Overnight leader Billy Mayfair, who reached halfway in 17 strokes fewer than Woods, added: “Give this guy a chance – he’ll bounce back.

“We all know that. Everyone on Tour knows that. By him missing a few cuts here and there, it’s just going to make him come back even stronger.

“I don’t think anyone out here is worried about Tiger and I’m sure Tiger is not worried about it right now either.”

Woods himself disagreed with that assessment, though.

“It does bother me, no doubt,” he said. “But at least I get the weekend to watch and see how it’s done, how real players play golf.

“And hopefully I can piece it together for next week and be ready to go.”

He won The Players – golf’s richest event and often referred to as the sport’s unofficial fifth major – in 2001, but has finished out of the top 20 more often there than at any other tournament.

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