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Woods gets free drop but pays price with poor play

Friday - 5/4/2012, 7:49pm  ET

By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A lost ball didn't cost Tiger Woods at the Wells Fargo Championship. A lost game did.

Coming off his worst performance as a pro at the Masters, Woods didn't make a birdie on any of the par 5s on another day of low scoring and wound up with a 1-over 73 to miss the cut for only the eighth time in his career.

"This is one of my favorite tour stops, and unfortunately, I'm just not going to be around for the last two days," Woods said Friday.

With swirling wind in the afternoon, Quail Hollow became tougher and there was an outside chance Woods could finish among the top 70. But he knew the score long before the second round ended. He was at even-par 144, and that was not going to be good enough.

Seventy-four players made the cut at 1-under 143, the first time in 10 years of this tournament that the cut was under par.

It was the first Woods missed the cut twice at the same event. Woods failed to qualify for the weekend at Quail Hollow in 2010 when he had just returned from the scandal in his personal life and his game was in disarray.

It didn't look much better on a course where he won in 2007.

Woods kept throwing away shots with a hooked iron off the tee at the 12th, a three-putt on the 13th, a weak chip on the 18th.

Woods, as he did at the Masters, attributed it to his old swing under Hank Haney. In an answer that was difficult to follow, he said he hits the ball better when he feels uncomfortable over the ball. Part of that is because he is still learning a new swing under Sean Foley.

"It just that I get out there and I want to get comfortable, and I follow my old stuff," he said. "And I hit it awful. All the shots I got uncomfortable on, I just said, `I'm going to get really uncomfortable and make it feel as bad as it possibly could,' I striped it. I know what I need to do. It's just I need more reps doing it."

His worst shot of the day led to something even stranger than Woods leaving a tournament on Friday.

He never found his ball and wasn't penalized.

Going for the green on the par-5 fifth, Woods hooked his approach some 30 yards left of the green and over the gallery. There was a mad scramble by the gallery to get to the ball, but when Woods arrived, the ball couldn't be found.

Tour official Mark Russell, speaking to several people who saw the ball land and fans surround it, determined that someone took the ball. He had Woods drop where spectators said they saw it without a penalty.

"There were about five or six people that ran over to the ball, and the next thing you know, we get down there and there's hundreds of people and no ball," Woods said. "You saw an area there, there's nothing there. We looked around for a while, and then Mark came over there and analyzed the situation and what was going on."

Russell said if the area had been heavily populated with bushes or thick pine straw, it might have been a different ruling. But because it was such an open, barren area and there were spectators who saw it land and bounce not too far away, there was only one conclusion.

"I'm thinking all the time, `If you can't find the ball, the ball is lost.' But based on the evidence we had, somebody must have picked the ball up," Russell said. "Very unusual situation, but based on all the evidence and the situation it was, looked like to me somebody ... where else could the ball have been?"

He got no argument from Geoff Ogilvy, who was playing with Woods and was near the green when he hit his second shot from the fairway. Ogilvy said he saw the ball drop from the trees, though he never saw it hit the ground because it was behind the spectators.

"It got picked up for sure. There can't be any doubt," Ogilvy said. "I guess there's a chance it could roll under the pine straw, but not when 500 people are there looking for it. Usually, Tiger's ball, they all circle around and stare at the ball. And it was gone."

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