The freak show was almost over but Tiger Woods still had one more duty to perform before he carried his bones towards the silver Lexus that would take him to the airport and on to Whistling Straits for a US PGA reconnaissance trip.
Having just shot a seven over 77 to compile the highest four round total of his 14-year professional career, a whopping 18 over par 278 that left him tied for 78th in the 80-man field, the greatest player of the modern era stepped up onto a low dais housed inside a small tent in the shadow of the giant Firestone water tower.
It could have been the side altar of a church but there was no worshipping the once invincible golfing god this Sunday morning and Woods, though revealing, did not bare his soul. No-one lit a candle either.
“Just not playing well,” Woods said, stating the blatantly obvious of a four round performance that featured enough technical glitches to keep any swing coach in clover for years to come.
Should he fail to play himself into the US Ryder Cup team’s automatic top-8 following this week’s final counting US PGA, Woods will require one of Corey Pavin’s four wildcards when the 12 man side is finalised on September 7. Right now, not even Woods can himself see at Celtic Manor.
“Not playing like this, definitely not, not playing like this,” said Woods if asked if he wanted to play in the Ryder Cup. “I mean, I wouldn’t help the team if I’m playing like this. No-one would help the team if they are shooting 18-over par.”
Ruling out any physical ailments in Akron, he insisted that he still has time on his side to turn things around for the Ryder Cup, which begins in 53 days.
“I think I can turn it around,” he said without much conviction. “We’ve got a lot of time between now and then, which is good.”
Woods must impress in the US PGA and the Barclays Classic before Pavin makes his decision. But expecting him to do it in the final major of the season this week is asking the impossible.
“I’ve got to be ready come Thursday,” he said of his final chance to reach 15 major wins this season. “I’m out there today. I could probably play 18 and still watch the guys finish.”
That was an example of gallows humour from Woods, who finished his round more than three hours before the leaders headed out at Firestone Country Club.
Dead last for driving accuracy and near the back of the field for every other statistical category after racking up 22 bogeys and three double bogeys, two of them yesterday, Woods surprised no-one when asked if golf was still fun.
“Absolutely not. Shooting 18-over par is not fun,” Woods said. “I don’t see how it can be fun shooting 18-over, especially since my handicap is supposed to be zero.”
The raw truth is that Woods is mentally a broken man following the tawdry revelations about his private life that have torn apart his six-year marriage to the former nanny Elin Nordegren and left him facing the possibility one of the most expensive celebrity divorces of all time.
Unable to practice as much as he’d like, his game has been consistently erratic all season but things came to a head in Akron, where he had never previously finished outside the top four or shot a round worse than 72.
Playing with Anthony Kim, who smiled and joked his way to a 76 for a 16 over par total, Woods mixed the ridiculous with the sometimes sublime as he compiled three birdies, six bogeys and two double bogeys in his 77.
“It’s tough. Yeah, it’s tough,” Woods said when asked if things were becoming increasingly difficult considering the turmoil of his private life. “The only thing I can say all week is I was patient, and unfortunately that’s not enough.”
Addressing the technical faults in his swing, he said: “The club is behind me. I lower, then try to whip it out in front of me, but it’s too late… It’s not a good combo.
“I need to hit the ball better, I need to chip better, I need to putt better, and I need to score better.”
As a result he said he wasn’t in the least bit shocked that he struggled so badly to find a fairway, hit two decent iron shots in a row or to chip or putt with any kind of feel.
“No, it doesn’t surprise me at all, actually,” he said.
Why? “It’s been a long year.”
Is it mental? “It’s been a long year.”
The game was up for Woods long before he took four to get down from the collar of rough surrounding the 14th green and double bogeyed or before he hit fan Eric Herzing in the face when he pushed five iron miles wide at the next.
Still, there were some nuggets to be enjoyed. Watched by a massive gallery, he hit a tree with an attempted escape from the trees at the par-five 16th and faced with a 261-yard third, he tried to hit a huge fade through a gap with a three wood and almost pulled off the shot of the week.
His ball screamed through the trees, turned 30 yards in the air but came up 10 yards short of glory. As it splashed down in the lake for another double, Woods bowed his head and trudged ahead on what looks like a long and winding road.