- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Just five days after a stirring victory near the nation's capital, Tiger Woods is headed home from the Greenbrier Classic, having missed the cut for just the ninth time in his professional career.
Woods came into the tournament off the high of his 74th PGA Tour victory on Sunday but left West Virginia lamenting what went wrong on the relatively benign Old White TPC course, where there was plenty of low scoring.
"I didn't quite have it," said Woods, whose birdie on the last hole gave him a 69 that was still one stroke too many. "I drove it really good today and I just did not have the right feel for the distances. The ball was just going forever. I know we're at altitude but I just couldn't get the ball pin high no matter what I did, and subsequently I made some bogeys."
Phil Mickelson also missed the cut, leaving the third-year event without its two headliners, both of whom were widely believed to have received financial inducements for their participation.
U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson shot 66 to take the 36-hole lead. He played with Woods during the first two rounds and beat him by nine strokes.
Tom Watson, 62, the pro emeritus at the Greenbrier, shot 68 and finished at 2 under to make the cut.
Mickelson shot consecutive 71s, which included a penalty stroke Friday, to miss by three strokes. As it turned out, Woods needed to shoot 2-under-par 68 to make the cut, but after a 2-hour, 25-minute weather delay, Woods missed a makeable birdie putt than made consecutive bogeys on the back nine to make his task formidable.
He rebounded with birdies at the 12th and 14th holes, then missed an 8-footer for birdie at the 15th and could not convert at the par-5 17th. In the end, Woods simply didn't give himself enough chances, despite missing just three fairways on Friday. As has been an issue all year, he was mediocre with his short irons, leaving himself long birdie putts despite short approach shots.
"I had my distance control dialed in last week and this week I was hitting the ball so far," he said. "I know it's hot, I know we're at altitude. My sand wedge is going 142 (yards), 145. Wedge is 160. These are numbers that I don't normally hit. ... I was really, really struggling to get the ball at the right number."
It is his second missed cut of the year, and just the second time in his career (the other 2005) that he's missed two cuts in the same season.
His other missed cut this year came at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, where he was in the midst of his worst three-tournament stretch as a pro on the PGA Tour. Woods tied for 40th at the Masters, missed the cut in Charlotte, then tied for 40th at the Players Championship.
But he has since won the Memorial Tournament, was the 36-hole co-leader at the U.S Open before finishing tied for 21st, then won last week's AT&T National. That gave Woods three victories in seven starts (he also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational just before the Masters), and plenty of good vibes with the Open Championship looming in two weeks.
At the Greenbrier, however, he could never get going after an early quick start on Thursday saw him 2 under par through 3 holes. That is the lowest he got. A bogey and then a double bogey on a par-5 doomed him to a 1-over-par 71 finish.
Needing to get in the 60s on Friday, Woods played the front nine in even par despite hitting every fairway. He left himself a 12-footer for birdie when the horn blew to halt play, came back out and missed it, then made two sloppy bogeys at the 10th and 11th holes.
Mickelson fared no better. For the first time in his 20-year Hall of Fame career, Mickelson has gone seven straight rounds without shooting par or better on the PGA Tour.
"I really have been (off)," he said. "I don't know what to say about that. It hasn't been great. The parts don't feel that far off, but I haven't been putting them together. It doesn't feel bad off the tee, it doesn't feel bad with the iron play, it doesn't feel bad chipping or putting.
"But I'm making some loose drives here or there, some loose iron shots here or there, missing some short putts here or there, and just haven't been putting it all together."
Dating to a first-round 79 at the Memorial Tournament -- where he afterward withdrew, citing mental fatigue but also privately complained about an abundance of spectators using cell phone cameras -- Mickelson has failed to match par in any round, the longest stretch of his career.
He shot four rounds over par at the U.S. Open, where he tied for 76th after scores of 76-71-71-78.
Mickelson began his round Friday by knocking his approach on the 10th hole to 15 feet, then three-putting, missing a 3-footer for par. A botched flop shot at the 16th hole led to a double-bogey.
"That's kind of what I'm talking about, where I'm just letting shots slide here and there that really aren't that hard," he said.
At the 11th hole, Mickelson said he dropped his coin on the ball, causing it to move, which is a one-stroke penalty. He appealed the ruling because he was in the act of marking his ball. "But under the decisions, any time a coin clips out of your finger, if you're not holding onto it, it says regardless of height, that it's a penalty," Mickelson said. "First time that's happened to me."
It is the second time this year that Mickelson has missed a cut and 64th in his career.
Woods' nine missed cuts include five over the past four years. It's the first time both Woods and Mickelson missed the cut in the same tournament as professionals.
Both players will now get ready for the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Mickelson tied for second last year at Royal St. George's while Woods, a three-time winner of the Claret Jug, missed the tournament due to injury.