SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Tiger Woods missed the halfway cut at the US Open on Friday (June 15) - the day before the 10th anniversary of his last Major title success - in the latest sign that his comeback from major back surgery has stalled.
He expressed no doubt when asked whether he still had another Major victory in him, but it was a fair question for a 42-year-old who, for all his greatness, has lost his putting touch and has no guarantee of ever finding it again.
"Absolutely," he said. "Have you seen the way I've been swinging?"
Meanwhile, Dustin Johnson played like the world No. 1 that he is, taking a stranglehold on the tournament with a five-shot clubhouse lead after his second round at Shinnecock Hills on Friday.
Johnson, part of a four-way tie for the overnight lead, jumped clear by taking advantage of relatively benign morning conditions for a three-under 67 and a four-under 136 halfway total.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood shot the best score of the championship, a six-birdie 66, while Swede Henrik Stenson used his renowned iron game for a 70. The two Europeans were closest to Johnson among the morning wave of players, both at one-over 141, one shot better than American Russell Henley (73).
Woods did indeed not play badly in a respectable two-over 72 on Friday, but the damage had been done with an opening 78 that included a demoralising triple-bogey at the first hole.
"I'm not very happy the way I played and the way I putted. I'm 10 over par," he said after missing the cut by 10 strokes at Shinnecock Hills.
Woods had a goal of shooting 67 or 68 on Friday and working gradually back into the tournament, and that did not look particularly unrealistic after he birdied his first hole, the par-four 10th.
But he later hit a speed bump at the same hole that shook him on Thursday, the par-four first, where he ran up a double-bogey that at least was better than his triple from the previous day.
Woods has won 14 Majors, and 79 PGA Tour events, but has not lifted a trophy in any tournament since 2013.
The former world No. 1 is playing a full schedule this year after a 2017 spinal fusion fixed a debilitating back problem that largely curtailed his schedule in the previous four seasons.
Before this week he had missed the cut only once in nine events in 2018.
His comeback seemed to be gathering a full head of steam when he finished one stroke behind winner Paul Casey at the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship in March.
He subsequently contended again deep into the final round the following week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, before yanking his drive out-of-bounds at the 16th hole.
He has not been quite the same since, as one aspect or another of his game has let him down in the ensuing starts, more often than not his putting.
"I'm hitting it just fine," he said on Friday. "I just haven't putted well. If I would have putted like I did at the beginning of the year with this ball striking, that would be ideal. Unfortunately, I just haven't done that."
Next up for Woods after a week off is the PGA Tour's Quicken Loans National that he hosts in suburban Washington, before heading to Scotland for the British Open at Carnoustie.