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Tiger suffers horrors in worst round as a pro

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Tiger Woods plays from the rough of the 11th

Tiger Woods plays from the rough of the 11th

USA Today Sports

Tiger Woods plays from the rough of the 11th

The fall of Tiger Woods reached its nadir yesterday as the greatest golfer of his era missed the cut at the Phoenix Open by a country mile with an abject 82 - officially his worst round in 1,109 rounds as a professional.

Even by his erratic recent standards, this was a display discombobulating in its sheer awfulness, as if Michael Jordan had forgotten how to dunk a basketball or Tom Brady was turning up for tomorrow night's Super Bowl with no idea of how to play quarterback.

Only once before had Woods failed to break 80 in his career, when he hacked his way to an 81 at Muirfield in 2002. But that was into the teeth of an East Lothian gale, not on a benign Scottsdale course that most of his fellow players were finding ripe for plunder.

The man himself, normally ultra-defensive, felt humiliated. "I have to keep to keep things in perspective," he said. "But sometimes it's difficult. We have days like this in golf. Unfortunately, mine was in a public setting."

Woods disclosed that he was heading back immediately to his home in Florida, abandoning his initial plan to attend the Super Bowl.

The plan was to put in more 'reps' under the guidance of his latest swing coach, the biomechanics expert Chris Como. The problem is that the partnership is patently not working.

One could argue that it is too early to judge, but the statistics do not lie - in their three months together, Woods finished dead last in his own event in Orlando and was ranked 132nd in a field of 132 as he beat his ignominious retreat from Arizona.

At this rate, Woods is poised to fall out of the world's top 50 on Monday. He might not even be eligible for the first World Golf Championship of the year, at Doral in March.

To see the man who won the Masters by 12 shots at 21, who has amassed 14 Majors and 79 tour titles, suffering such indignities is not an edifying experience.

PSEUDO-SCIENCE

The impression is that ever since he parted company with Hank Haney in 2010, he has been too inclined to indulge pseudo-science rather than to restore the fundamentals of what made his game great before.

"I was caught right between patterns - the old one and the new one," said Woods, whose front nine of 44 was tied with his previous worst. "I still have a lot of work to do. I just have to keep fighting, keep grinding."

Brandel Chamblee, the US golf analyst notorious for calling Tiger "duplicitous" in 2012, described Woods' first round - an error-strewn 73 - as the "most shocking round I have ever seen him play".

He would have needed the smelling salts after this. "The word is incomprehensible," he said. It was woeful, feeble, genuinely shocking to behold. In his chipping, an area where he laughably claimed to have made improvements before the tournament started, Woods appeared to have a psychological block so severe it could only be called the yips.

Woods' short game has become so wretched, it is as if he is playing down the highway at a suburban Phoenix municipal.

He looks paralysed by self-doubt over even the most straightforward chip: and with that mindset, it would be impossible for most tour players to keep their card, let alone contend.

In a greenside bunker by the fourth yesterday, he was faced with a routine escape and instead skulled the ball across the green in the manner of a 21-handicapper.

Even with an ensuing double-bogey, he could count himself the fortunate it did not end up in the nearby lake.

The wonder is that it has all gone so dreadfully wrong so quickly. Not 18 months ago, Woods was ranked No 1 in the world and shot a peerless 61 in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. He won five tournaments and the PGA Tour's player of the year award.

Notah Begay, Woods' closest friend in the game after their time at Stanford together, said last night: "Guys are coming up to me dumbfounded."

Woods tried to explain that in his chipping, he was finding the remodelled swing impossible to apply.

"I was much steeper in my overall swing previously, now I'm very shallow," he said. "The swing is not bottoming out at the same point. That affects the chipping. But I'm going to practise each and every day."

Whether it was his triple-bogey at the 15th, where he took an unplayable lie from a bush, or his dismal three-putt at the eighth, Woods was in the throes of the most acute embarrassment.

Around 120,000 people had swarmed through the gates to see him, and his efforts had sunk before lunchtime in an unseasonal desert rain. He merely proved that, while his tooth had been replaced, courtesy of some emergency dental work following his bizarre ski episode, his game had gone entirely.

WAYWARD

Like Tiger, Padraig Harrington also fell foul of golf's abominable snowman, racking up an awful quadruple-bogey eight on 18 as a wayward second-round 78 brought his first tournament of 2015 to a premature conclusion.

Already wallowing well beyond the projected cut line with a double-bogey six, five bogeys and five birdies on his card, Harrington again hooked a tee-shot into serious trouble 168 yards from the final green.

After one fruitless attempt to extricate himself, he took a penalty drop, but the Dubliner's difficulties didn't end there. He only made the green in six, then two-putted from 38 feet for the eight which left him close to the foot of the leaderboard on seven-over.

The early clubhouse lead was held by American Daniel Berger on eight-under par. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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