Late Friday afternoon, just as the ominous gray clouds lifted over the PGA Championship, the last vestiges of Masters magic burned away.
Tiger Woods missed the cut.
He didn't miss by much – one stroke over 36 holes – but the reality landed with a thud, considering the uplifting effect of his stirring victory at Augusta National a month before. He looked closer to his age Friday, his 43-year-old body unable to turn and lash the golf ball into the next ZIP code as he once could.
"Well, I'm not playing the weekend," he said, after a day when he hit just three of 14 fairways, seven fewer than in the opening round. "That's disappointing. Just didn't quite – just didn't quite have it."
He shot a three-over-par 73 on Friday, putting him at five over for the tournament when the cut line was plus-four. His last-gasp opportunity came on No. 18, the least-imposing hole at Bethpage Black, but his approach from 113 yards hit the front of the green and spun back into the intermediate rough. He missed on his Hail Mary chip from 40 feet and wound up five feet from the cup. He made that for par, but it wasn't enough.
His undoing happened at the turn, when he opened the back nine with bogeys on four of the first five holes.
Woods, who was among the favorites to win coming off the Masters, said he "made too many mistakes and just didn't do the little things I need to do. You know, I had a couple three-putts. I didn't hit wedges close. I didn't hit any fairways today. Did a lot of little things wrong."
There will be plenty of second-guessing, maybe not by Woods but by those on the outside, about his decision to sit out a month after Augusta, risking his momentum coming out of that major championship.
Asked if he had regrets about resting, he said: "No, no, no. Definitely not. You know, I'm the Masters champion and 43 years old and that's a pretty good accomplishment."
Casting Woods' struggles in even sharper relief was the fact he was playing with the scorching Brooks Koepka, who is not only the defending PGA champion but has won the last two U.S. Opens – and finished a shot behind Woods at Augusta.
Koepka followed his opening-round 63 with a 65 on Friday, for the lowest 36-hole score (128) in majors history. That beats the previous record, held by several golfers, by two strokes.
After two rounds, Koepka has a seven-shot lead over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott.
"What Brooksy did, he's driving it 330 yards in the middle of the fairway," Woods said. "He's got nine-irons when most of us are hitting five-irons, four-irons, and he's putting well. That adds up to a pretty substantial lead, and if he keeps doing what he's doing, there's no reason why he can't build on this lead."
Although there were some light showers Friday, the skies have yet to truly rain as was forecast earlier in the week. Still, the moisture could help produce some low scores during the weekend round – particularly for Koepka, Woods said.
"The golf course is soft enough where the power helps," he said. "So when he did miss the fairway, he missed it far enough down there where he was still able to hit wedges and nine-irons on the green, and on top of that, he missed on the correct sides. So he had good angles."
As for Woods, who missed a practice round Wednesday and said he hasn't felt well this week, he was subdued after missing the cut but didn't sound deeply discouraged. He said he expects to be back up to speed and practicing soon, with the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach coming up in a month.
"I've got to start feeling a little bit better first before that happens," he said of practicing. "We'll do that first and then start cranking it back up again. I just wasn't moving the way I needed to. That's the way it goes. There's going to be days and weeks where it's just not going to work, and today was one of those days."