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Surprising thing about Tiger's slide? It's no longer surprising

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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AKRON, Ohio -- Talk about your symbolism.

Struggling yet again, Tiger Woods blew his drive on his final hole of the day deep into the gallery and the trees, punched out short of the green and found that his ball had come to rest near a large metal sewer grate.

Tiger Woods hits one of his first 10 fairways on Friday. (AP)  
Tiger Woods hits one of his first 10 fairways on Friday. (AP)  
Eau, the aroma.

With no end to his competitive skid in sight, the sputtering world No. 1 shot a 2-over 72 in the second round of the Bridgestone Invitational on Friday, flirting with last place along the way and then bolting the premises without a word of explanation.

Not much needed to be said, really. By all rights, since Woods spent more time in the trees than the serenading cicadas and scurrying squirrels, it could have been an 80.

Playing alongside world No. 3 Lee Westwood, who limped along with a nagging calf injury that caused him to withdraw afterward, it looked like a worst-ball match between a banker and a real estate agent. Westwood actually finished the two rounds a stroke worse than Woods at 7 over, not that anybody was bragging.

There was plenty of gallows humor as they slogged out and tried to get it over with. Both players looked like they wished the event had a 36-hole cut, which it doesn't, though they managed a few laughs along the way about how poorly they were playing.

"What can you do, cry?" Westwood said.

At this point, for Woods, that might be cathartic. About the only good news was that his new goatee is growing in nicely.

Making his eighth start of the season, Woods is backpedaling, not making progress. He has found an astounding eight of 28 fairways and one of his first 10 on Friday. Mind you, this at a venue where he has never finished worse than T4.

He whacked a young spectator with one wild tee shot on his front nine. Later in the round, somebody inside the ropes passed gas so loudly -- it was a player or caddie -- that it could be heard in the gallery. At least the smell matched the scoring.

The pair played in a premier world event at Firestone, but looked like they belonged at the third-tier opposite event at Turning Stone.

"Neither one of us played very well, did we?" Westwood said, rhetorically.

For Woods, whose injuries are purely psychological, the whole round was ripe for flushing. In his 11 previous visits here, Woods had never played consecutive rounds at worse than 1 over and had never posted two in a row at above par. He had never before signed for consecutive rounds above par at any World Golf Championships event.

He couldn't escape fast enough afterward, as evidenced by the scene on his final hole. As Woods finished up with a bogey, one Akron Police Department officer in the security contingent whispered in the ear of another: "He's signing his card and then he's out."

That's exactly what happened. For the second day in a row, after noting that he hasn't been practicing as much as he used to and that it might be contributing to his struggles, Woods didn't go to the range to work on his swing issues. He blew off requests to speak with the media, and five minutes after his round was over, he was tooling away in his SUV.

At this point, even given his pedigree at Firestone, the shock of the slide has worn off. No question, Firestone has been his personal romper room over the years, with a tour-record seven victories at the venue, including his last four starts here. But plenty of fans and bettors expected Woods to be handed the trophies as soon as he arrived at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, where he had won by record margins in the past. He wasn't sharp at either major.

The travails have continued to such a degree that there's open speculation about how much longer Woods will continue to play this year, or if he would accept a captain's pick offer to play in the Ryder Cup. He has committed to playing in two overseas events later this fall, but if he holds his current position at No. 111 in FedEx Cup points, he is assured of exactly one start in the four-event playoff series.

He wouldn't even qualify for the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, limited to the top 100 in points, and that tournament benefits his personal charity.

Friday's round marked his fifth in a row without breaking par. At one point, Woods got flustered after a tee shot was blown off-line in a breeze he hadn't noticed. He looked skyward and grumbled, "How the hell did that go right?"

Good point. Because as far as the big picture goes, nothing else has gone right for months.

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