Mon, Aug 15, 2011 - Page 19 News List

ANALYSIS: New depths loom large for Tiger Woods after PGA exit

Reuters, JOHNS CREEK, GEORGIA

After plunging to new depths at the PGA Championship with his first missed cut at the major, Tiger Woods faces the once unthinkable prospect of being ranked outside the world’s top 50 when he next competes.

His next scheduled event is the Nov. 10 to Nov. 13 Australian Open and, should he not play a tournament before then, the former world No. 1 would slide down to the high fifties in the rankings.

This would be a remarkable scenario for Woods, the greatest golfer of his generation and arguably of all time, who has already won 14 major titles in a glittering career.

However, the last two years have been a veritable nightmare for the American, on and off the course, and he was not expected to fare well at the PGA Championship having only recently returned to competition.

After making a red-hot start to the season’s final major with three birdies in his first five holes, world No. 30 Woods spectacularly unraveled on the way to an opening seven-over par 77.

That left him a staggering 14 strokes off the first-round lead and he followed up with a roller-coaster 73 on Friday to miss the cut after recording five double-bogeys in a tournament for the first time.

“I was in nearly 20 bunkers in two days and I had four or five water balls. So that’s not going to add up to a very good score,” a rueful Woods told reporters before heading home to Florida.

His early exit from Atlanta Athletic Club meant he failed to qualify for the PGA Tour’s season-ending FedExCup playoffs and he clearly has plenty of work to do on his revamped swing before he returns to action, whether in Australia or before.

Woods does have plenty of options, ranging from teeing up in the PGA Tour’s Fall series, which generally attracts only the journeymen on the US circuit, or perhaps heading across to the late-season events on the European Tour.

Asked whether he might add a tournament or two to his schedule before the Australian Open in Sydney, Woods said: “I might. I know that I’m scheduled in November to go, but, as of right now, that’s the only commitment that I have.”

If the PGA Championship does represent his final PGA Tour appearance of the season, Woods will end this year’s campaign in the US with just two top-10s in eight starts.

His biggest problems have been injury and a lack of practice. He was on the sidelines for three months while recovering from the left knee ligaments and Achilles tendon he hurt during the Masters in April, when he impressively tied for fourth.

He missed two majors, the US Open and the British Open, and that unexpected hiatus was far from ideal as he continues working with coach Sean Foley through the fourth swing change of his career.

“This year has been frustrating because I was feeling somewhat healthy going into the Masters, put it together there and was leading the tournament with a few holes to go,” said Woods, who has not won a major since the 2008 US Open nor any tournament worldwide since 2009.

“Then I got hurt and I haven’t played since really. So it’s been frustrating from that standpoint, that I have not been able to -practice and work, and obviously compete,” he said.

While bitterly disappointed and frustrated by his erratic display at the Atlanta Athletic Club, Woods has been greatly encouraged by his improved health after recovering from four knee surgeries over the years.

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