Tiger’s Troubles: Can Woods Bounce Back From His PGA Bust?

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Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the eighth hole during the second round of the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club on August 12, 2011.

After Tiger Woods imploded at the PGA Championship on Friday, causing him to miss a cut at a major championship for only the fourth time in his career, he has to make a move.

Get Byron Bell off the bag!

After Tiger Woods dumped his long-time caddie, Steve Williams, a few weeks ago, many golf experts thought a clean break from his recently troubled past would do him wonders.

So far, not so good.

With childhood buddy Bell looping for him, Woods finished tied for 37th at the Bridgestone Invitational last week. He had won that tournament seven times.And after shooting a putrid seven-over par during the first round of the PGA Championship, which is being played at the Atlanta Athletic Club, on Thursday, Woods shot three-over-par on Friday, finishing ten-over for this two days and missing the cut by six strokes.

(PHOTOS: Tiger Woods’ Bad Day)

On Friday, Woods looked wounded. On the 11th hole, for example, he fired a bunker shot across the green and into a pond. He finished with a double bogey. On the next hole, he hit his drive into the trees, and after pitching back onto the fairway, Woods hooked another shot stared ahead in disgust. Woods finished that hole with another double bogey.

Blaming Bell, who is a temporary hire, for Woods’ problems is silly. But everyone is searching for answers. What happened to the world’s greatest athlete? At this point, you can probably forget about the mental stuff. It’s been almost two years since the Thanksgiving night car accident that blew the lid on Woods’ double life. The sordid scandal has run its course. A psychological assassin like Woods, who was so dominant in this mentally taxing game, has the capabilities to overcome all the distractions.

Tiger’s physical problems, however, are more troubling. His advancing age – Woods is now 35 – well-publicized knee injuries, and ongoing swing reconstruction has left him looking confused on the course. Since Woods returned to golf at last year’s Masters, he has given fans no reason to believe he’ll return to his dominant form.

Now, people are wondering if they should start to feel some sympathy for Woods. Well, the media encroachment into Tiger’s private life was his own doing. When the world’s greatest athlete leaves a digital trail of misdeeds longer than eight golf courses, no one is going to look away.

But few people enjoy seeing the erosion of genius. You don’t have to feel bad for Tiger Woods. But shed a tear for the state of his game.

Sean Gregory is a staff writer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @seanmgregory. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.