SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Though Matt Jones, Jason Day and Justin Rose are blowing through Whistling Straits like a storm out of the pages of the Book of Revelation, turning the Pete Dye-designed major championship course into a Web.com Tour venue, 13 former major winners with a combined 29 titles between then will sit out the weekend after missing the 2-over cut line.
Tiger Woods may account for almost half those wins, but 2015 will be a year to forget in his book as he finished the major championship season T-17-MC-MC-MC. He added a clumsy 1-over 73 to go with his first-round 75 and miss the cut by two shots.
So, what now for Tiger Woods, who still looks lost in competition even though he says he likes the way his practice is progressing?
“What now? I'm going to go home and watch the leaders tee off and play," Woods said Saturday morning. "Probably in Florida. Actually I'll go to my sports bar, how about that?”
He had to get the plug in there, didn’t he?
“[I] came back at Augusta and had my short game back," Woods said. "Then I started getting my ball striking in order, but then I lost my putting. I hit too many balls and neglected my chipping, because I thought that was sound again. And then I just need to do both at the same time. I just haven't done that. I haven't put together ball striking and putting. It's been one or the other."
Far from the pushover the top players have made of the Straits Course, Woods still looks discombobulated. Leaving putts 8 feet short, pitching from one greenside bunker into another and wildly flailing with a two-way miss, he doesn’t look like FedEx Cup or Presidents Cup material, despite his Hall of Fame -- indeed Golf Immortal -- pedigree. He will likely miss both unless Jay Haas makes him a captain’s pick, strictly for those casual eyeballs and that TV sponsorship money that’s superceded considerations like putting someone more deserving on the team (and who’d likely play better given Woods’s struggles).
Other well-decorated champions suffered similar ignominious fates. Open Champion Zach Johnson posted a pedestrian 75-72 to miss the cut by one shot. Betrayed by his driver, he played from trouble both days, putting him behind an 8-ball from which he never emerged.
“I'm not going to stray away or try to play off my driver, because, especially on a golf course of this magnitude, I can't do that. And I hit some good ones today, but I just hit some that cost me,” Johnson lamented. “Some were 15 yards left of my target line, 20 yards.”
Still, a libation from the Claret Jug will soothe him, that’s for sure.
Speaking of Claret Jugs and libations, the Irish and Northern Irish contingent were particularly affected by the bloodletting. The 2010 U.S. Open champion and European Ryder Cup clincher Graeme McDowell, Ryder Cup Yankee killer and 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke, and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington are also going home early.
McDowell was inside the cut line with three holes to play, but, after starting on No. 10, finished bogey-double bogey-bogey over the stretch of 7-8-9 to post a disappointing 4-over 76 to go with his opening 73.
“Projected to fall to 156th in the FedEx Cup, McDowell won’t be in the playoffs,” write quintessential Irish writer Brian Keogh of Irish Golf Desk, the first site you consult for all things Ireland and Northern Ireland.
"As for Clarke,” Keogh continued, “Europe’s Ryder Cup skipper will next tee it up in Denmark and he may well have a hangover.”
That’s because Clarke – laconic and sincere as ever – gave the best quote of the week:
“It’s my birthday today, so after that effort I might go out tonight and get hammered," he said, cracking a grin despite bowing out with a ghastly 81-78, 15-over line score.
“I just played crap,” he lamented candidly. “Really poorly, which is very frustrating as I felt I played beautifully because I hit it lovely on the practice range.”
Don’t we all, Darren.
Other former major champions headed home early include Shaun Micheel, Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Davis Love III, David Toms, Rich Beem, John Daly (infamously so – while on his way to a grotesque 10 on the par-3 7th, when a birdie would have meant he played the weekend, he helicoptered his club into Lake Michigan), and Mark Brooks.
Meanwhile, Matt Jones, unheralded in America but well known in his homeland of Australia, leads by two over fellow Aussie Jason Day. He put the finishing touches on brilliant 65, finishing early this morning due to the storm.
“My speed on the greens has been really good, which is huge for me when I putt,” he explained energetically. “Just to know I can hit my putts and be comfortable on the distances they're going to go. But, yeah, the way I've got up and down for pars and some of the birdies I've made have been great.”
That’s a bit of a shock as Rickie Fowler said the most critical stat this week would be greens in regulation. Woods echoed the sentiment today.
“You can go out there and post a low one, and then also you can have guys have train wrecks. That's typical of a Pete Dye golf course," he said.
"I think this may be probably the most severe of all of Pete's golf courses off the landing areas or around the greens,” Woods noted, showing once again that his prowess in analyzing a golf course is still unparalleled. “[Off the fairway] You're going to have some uneven lies, some awkward stances, and generally you probably aren't going to get a good lie. So that's another factor.”
Still, despite all the cloak and dagger claustrophobia caused by the nightmarish bunker complexes, towering hillocks, and the ever-present threat of Lake Michigan, 50 players are under par after two rounds, a staggering number for a major, let alone one on a golf course with so much trouble. Overall, the field played the course to a 73.5 scoring average – quite mild compared to the 75s, 76s, and 77s Winged Foot, Oakmont, Oakland Hills and Pebble Beach tend to throw at the players.
“The scoring average yesterday was a paltry 72.9,” observed golf course expert Bruce Moulton. “They need the wind to kick up some more, just not like last night.”
THAT WAS FUN, RIGHT?!
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