We weren't supposed to get too excited over Tiger Woods' strong performance on Thursday at the Open Championship, so we won't get too pessimistic about his godawful one on Friday, but still ... oooof.
Everything that went so well on Thursday for Woods went sideways on Friday. He followed his first-day 69 with a miserable 77, and needed a desperation eight-foot birdie to assure himself of a spot in the weekend. That's the cliff over which he plunged: He needed a last-second heave to keep from falling from the top 10 to missing the cut.
That birdie on 18 was Woods' only one of the day, a day that began in the ugliest way possible: double bogey-bogey. Woods thus went +5 over the first two holes for the tournament's first days. From there on, it got no prettier. He missed fairway after fairway, continuing to go to the driver even after it was clear he'd have been more accurate just throwing the ball down the course.
If Thursday's 69 was a signal that he was approaching top form in his return from back surgery four months ago, Friday's 77 was a reality check.
Tiger now faces several daunting challenges, not even counting trying to catch leader Rory McIlroy. (Woods is 14 back, so that's not gonna happen.) He has to figure out how to play consistently at majors again. No one is going to give him the barest inch of a break, even as he returns from injury. He also needs to refine his accuracy both off the tee and on the green. He needs to play well enough over the next few weeks that Tom Watson can comfortably add him to the 2014 Ryder Cup team.
That's where his game is right now: he's questionable to be among the 12 best Americans to represent the United States in Scotland in September.
No one expected Woods to win this weekend, and indeed simply making the cut is an achievement after the months-long layoff. But the way in which Woods made the cut, with frantic scrambling rather than comfortable assurance, only adds fuel to the concerns about his long-term prospects.
"I've got a chance," Woods said after the round. "Hopefully I can do like Paul [Lawrie] did in '99, make up 10 strokes. I just need to get to the back nine on Sunday."
Tiger will make it to the back nine on Sunday. Chances are, though, he'll be done before most of America gets wakes up to see him ... which might be for the best.