CHARLOTTE - Finally, all the talk about Tiger Woods was mostly about his golf.
And it was more bad news.
In a shocking meltdown yesterday at the Quail Hollow Championship, Woods missed the cut for only the sixth time in his career with a performance that was incomparable for all the wrong reasons.
He shot a 79, his worst score on American soil as a pro and the second-highest of his career. He matched his highest score on nine holes with a 43 on the back nine, and that was with three solid pars on the tough closing stretch. His 36-hole score of 153 was the highest in his 14 years on the PGA Tour.
Rust? Mechanics? Distractions from a personal life in turmoil?
"It is what it is," Woods said. "Whatever it was, it wasn't good enough."
Not even close.
He missed the cut by a whopping eight shots - and he was 17 shots behind 36-hole leader Billy Mayfair - and headed back to Florida as speculation mounts that being caught in rampant extramarital affairs has tarnished more than his image.
Making the performance even more surprising is that Woods was coming off a tie for fourth at the Masters three weeks ago, a remarkable result considering it was his first competition since a five-month hiatus created by his crisis at home.
Woods couldn't make a putt, and he didn't make any excuses about whether his private life is affecting his golf.
"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."
Mayfair birdied his last hole for a 4-under 68 that gave him the halfway lead at 8-under 136. He led by one shot over two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, who had a 67 while playing the last two days with Woods.
J.P. Hayes matched the course record at Quail Hollow with a 64 and was in the group at 138 with Masters champion Phil Mickelson (68), Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson (65) and Paul Goydos (70).
Instead of making birdies, Woods was making consecutive double bogeys - a flop shot that ran through the green and into the water on the 14th and a four-putt from 30 feet on the next hole, the last three putts from inside four feet.
Woods only hit two fairways, none after the fourth hole.
"He's obviously got things in his mind other than what's going on between the ropes right now," said British Open champion Stewart Cink, who played with Woods. "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."
This was Woods' first time playing at a regular PGA Tour event with public ticket sales, and the crowd was gracious as ever with a few exceptions. Two fans, including a woman, held thumbs-down as Woods walked off the 15th green.
"You have to let it go," Woods said. "It's like baseball - you go 0-for-4 two days in a row like I did, you've got a whole new tournament next week, which is great."
Woods is to compete next week at The Players Championship. He won at Sawgrass in 2001.35.2225 -80.83754