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Woods cut short


MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Anyone who watched the U.S. Open yesterday can say they had a chance to witness history, with Tiger Woods missing the cut in a major for the first time in his professional career. It's almost the same for many players who are still in the field. They can say they have a chance, period.

They sensed a whole new openness to the Open once the most towering figure in golf failed to make it to the weekend.

"Well, it helps. It helps us all," said Colin Montgomerie, who is at par after two rounds on a daunting Winged Foot course and will be in the final group today with the leader, Steve Stricker (1-under).

"I've always said it's difficult to win majors in this Tiger Woods era. He usually takes two of them [a year]," Montgomerie said. "Now Tiger is not here; of course it gives everybody an opportunity. The one time he has missed the cut, it would be nice to take full advantage of it, sure."

The day might have come for Stricker, who lost his PGA Tour card and had to go back to qualifying school last December, or for Montgomerie, the Scotsman who used to come oh-so-close to winning majors, or major champions Jim Furyk (2-over) or Phil Mickelson (3-over), or someone else.

But that day will be tomorrow. Yesterday, the tournament still belonged to the man who left. Woods was the talk of the town after having shot a second straight 6-over 76 to finish at 12-over, missing the cut by three strokes.

"I think most people are probably shocked," said Kenneth Ferrie, an Englishman who is among the unlikely contenders at 1-over. "He is a phenom, a great player. I was quite curious to see, after the layoff he'd had, what would happen. And it obviously wasn't meant to be this week."

Woods, figuring he needed to finish 9-over because of the rule that says anyone within 10 shots of the lead makes the cut, tried hard to make something happen on his final three holes, after he was 10-over. But he pulled his drive into the left rough on No. 8 (his 17th hole) and made bogey, then hit an overly long chip and missed a 15-foot par putt on No. 9 to finish out of the picture.

Having stayed away from competitive golf for nine weeks, much of it spent grieving for his father, Earl, Woods just wasn't sharp. At least not sharp enough for a course that is punishing, even by U.S. Open standards. He never did overcome two double bogeys on his first nine yesterday.

"Marginal shots are just going to get killed here. It's just the nature of this golf course," Woods said. "I felt if I just kept going, kept plodding along, I could have turned it around any time with one putt or one shot. I thought I was playing well enough to shoot an under-par round today, and I didn't do that."

So his streak of having made 39 consecutive cuts in majors - including those in which he played as an amateur - ended.

The Open can make strange things happen, especially an Open with rough as dense and greens as unfathomable as Winged Foot's.

As Montgomerie said, "I think it's different for everybody, so therefore it doesn't favor anybody."

Geoff Ogilvy, who shot 70 to finish 1-over, said: "You've got to try to avoid train wrecks. ... It's amazing, a birdie in a regular tournament seems to just move you forward a tiny bit. Here, you seem to jump about 30 guys."

Stricker jumped into first place when he holed out a bunker shot for a birdie on his last hole. "I could have made a bogey and just as easily been sitting here at 1-over," said Stricker, 39.

He admitted that it was a different sensation than he usually gets at tournaments on Fridays. "When I knew I was well inside the cut and leading the tournament, I was actually having a lot of fun with it and really didn't feel a whole lot of pressure," he said. "I feel tons more pressure when I'm trying to make the cut."

For once, Woods knew the feeling. He was frustrated and a little subdued, and said, "When you don't execute, you're not going to be happy."

Mark Herrmann writes for Newsday.

Leader board

The leader ... Steve Stricker 70-69-139

... and selected followers

Colin Montgomerie 69-71-140 Kenneth Ferrie 71-70-141 Geoff Ogilvy 71-70-141 Padraig Harrington 73-69-142 Jim Furyk 70-72-142 Phil Mickelson 70-73-143 Graeme McDowell 71-72-143 Arron Oberholser 75-68-143 Jason Dufner 72-71-143 Bart Bryant 72-72-144 Scott Hend 72-72-144 Vijay Singh 71-74-145 David Duval 77-68-145 Fred Funk 71-75-146 Ernie Els 74-73-147

[Complete scores, PG 5C]

A cut above

Since the Masters instituted a cut in 1957 and the PGA Championship switched to stroke play in 1958, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have gone the longest without missing the cut in a major at 39. Woods' streak started in the 1996 U.S. Open as an amateur and ended yesterday:

Nicklaus (39)

Masters (10) 1969-1978

U.S. Open (10) 1969-1978

British Open (10) 1969-1978

PGA Champ. (9) 1969-1977

Woods (39)

Masters (10) 1997-2006

U.S. Open (10) 1996-2005

British Open (10) 1996-2005

PGA Champ. (9) 1997-2005

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