SHEBOYGAN, Wis. » His work almost done for the day, Tiger Woods stood in the 18th fairway at Whistling Straits waiting for the green to clear when he asked, "What time is my press conference?"
Gone was the sense of dread that came with meeting the media — his first time back at the Masters or facing the British tabloids at St. Andrews. Back then, he braced for questions about the extramarital affairs that got him into this mess, a broken marriage, the endorsements he lost.
Now, the attention has mostly shifted back to his golf.
Some reprieve that turned out to be.
One reporter asked yesterday how he had gone from the No. 1 player in the world to "one of the worst players on the planet."
Once the clear-cut favorite in any major, Woods heads into the PGA Championship not knowing what to expect himself. He used to win nearly 30 percent of the time on the PGA Tour. Now it’s a question of whether he’ll make it past the cut on Friday.
And for good reason.
Just two days ago, Woods endured his worst tournament ever when he shot 18-over 298 at Firestone — the course where he had won seven times — and beat only one player in the 80-man field.
He has broken par only four times in his last 20 rounds. He has not come seriously close to winning any of his eight tournaments this year. Instead of looking relaxed and confident, he said he had one more practice round and "hopefully everything will come right."
The only surprise was that Woods said he expected to be this bad much earlier.
"To be honest with you, I thought I would have been here a little bit sooner, with all that’s going on," he said. "But somehow, I’ve been able to play a little bit better than I thought for a stretch, and then it finally caught up with me last week."
Then, he clarified what he meant by "here."
"Playing this poorly. For sure," he replied. "With all the things that have gone on, for some reason I’ve been able to piece together rounds and keep it in there. There were two tournaments where I really hit it well, but other than that, I really haven’t done that well."
His time is running out this year. If he plays poorly at Whistling Straits, he could be in jeopardy of missing the 125-man field at The Barclays that starts the PGA Tour playoffs. Woods is at No. 119, one point behind Bob Estes. To miss would be a five-week break from the PGA Tour, this time because he wasn’t eligible to play.
He asked Sean Foley, the swing coach for Firestone winner Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair, to take a look at his swing. Foley twice videotaped him from the back and front along the front nine, and they had a quiet discussion on the 10th tee before Foley dropped back to spend time with one of his other clients.