Tiger Woods' whimpering play hard to watch at PGA Championship
American looked a shadow of himself as he misses the cut, suggesting his best days are now a fading memory
At No 7, Tiger Woods bent over so gingerly to pick up his tee that you wondered whether he would get back up.
At No 8, he leaned so heavily on his putter while retrieving a ball from the cup that the shaft bowed like a guitar string.
By then he was three-over par for the day, a half-dozen strokes on the wrong side of the cut line with a still-sore back and one foot already out the door.
Sympathy for Woods might be in short supply, but it was still sad to watch.
Sadder still, we might look back and remember what happened at this PGA Championship as his Willie Mays moment.
Like Woods, Mays was the greatest player of his era. But Mays was already 41 and a shell of what he used to be by the time he returned to New York to play his final two seasons for the Mets.
In game two of the 1973 World Series, he stumbled and fell trying to run down a ball in the outfield and said not long after, "growing old is a helpless hurt".
He batted in game three and never appeared in a major league contest again.
Woods may not be done winning majors, but he is close.
He is 38 and the physical breakdowns are gradually piling up closer together, like some slow-motion car crash.
The days when he was better than everyone with every club in the bag are a fast-fading memory. He drives the ball erratically and cannot make short putts when they matter most.
Woods said after shooting a second consecutive 74 that his back nearly went out on him while practising on the range.
If nothing else, his performance on the golf course afterward made that easy to believe.
He made only one birdie in the first round - holing out from 100 feet with a wedge - and did not make his first conventional birdie until he rolled in a 12-footer on No 15 in round two.
The only time he looked out from under the bill of his cap and up at the gallery was to acknowledge a warm ovation for his third and final birdie at No 18.
Afterward, Woods said most of the same things he had been saying a lot in the past few years. He needs to get stronger. He needs to fix some technical flaws.
His game is close to coming back together. The only revealing thing Woods said was when someone asked whether he felt old.
"I felt old a long time ago," he replied, smiling. "It's darn near 20 years out here."
Golf desperately needs Woods, but now the converse is true, too. That much was clear when he rushed back to play in this tournament just a few days after he withdrew from the previous week's one barely able to bend over far enough to tie shoes.
Speculation ran the gamut last week on what Woods hoped to accomplish: win the tournament, impress US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson enough to make the team as a wild-card pick, get enough face time to add another sponsor to his dwindling stable - take your pick.
No matter what his real motivation was, he is leaving town empty-handed yet again. He has not contended on the final nine of a major since that December day in 2009 when his SUV careened out of control down the driveway of his Florida mansion.
Woods' critics were out in force long before then. Some found him too arrogant from the start, and even after he ascended to the top of the game and in tournament after tournament put on the best show in sports. Another big chunk peeled off after the scandal.
Every time he is humbled - and despite a combined eight tour wins in 2012-13, there have been no shortage of those instances - Woods gets carpet-bombed on social media and in bar conversations.
Where he goes from here is anyone's guess. Woods said he had no idea what his schedule for the rest of the year looked like.
Asked what he would tell Watson if he called about the Ryder Cup, Woods was glib. "I don't know," he replied. "He hasn't called."
At this point, Watson should not bother. The soon-to-be-65-year-old captain did not make the cut, either, but he still beat Woods.
Not long after his round was done, Woods threw his golf shoes, and the rest of his gear in the back of a car, and slipped into a pair of sneakers - this time without even tying the laces.