Call it the lost weekend of Tiger Woods. Two days in San Francisco that were meant to signal the return of golf's most emblematic figure with a win at the 2012 US Open ended with frustration and ultimately indifference, from the adoring galleries at the Olympic Club and from the man himself.
"I'm definitely still in the ball game. I'm only five back and that's certainly do-able on this golf course for sure," the world No4 said on Saturday evening after signing for a five-over-par 75. That dropped him out of the lead, leaving him five shots adrift of the overnight leaders, Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk.
"It's all about patience. It's just a few birdies here and there. It's not like where you have to go out there and shoot 62 or 63. This is a US Open. You just need to hang around. First you need to get off to a good start. Get through the first six. Because anything can happen at the last three holes."
That was the theory. The reality was altogether different, and more than a little shocking. Teeing off an hour and a half before the leaders, Woods's hope was that he might stage a charge that would terrify those playing behind him on the golf course. If that happened, all bets would be off.
His ambition lasted all of 40 minutes, the time it took him to butcher – to use the caddies' vernacular – the opening three holes. His drive at the long opening hole leaked into the rough to the right, from where he could only chop his ball back out on to the fairway.
Three shots later he walked off the green with bogey. That was bad, but worse was to follow at the 2nd, where he hit his approach shot into a bunker beyond the green. Again he failed to get up and down.
Now he was seven shots adrift of the leaders, who were still warming up on the practice range.
Nevertheless hope was not fully extinguished until the par-three 3rd, where Woods left his tee shot short, hit a chip shot through the green and then left his third 25 yards short of the pin. He two-putted for a double-bogey five and with that his chances were gone.
For the record, he bogeyed the 5th and 6th, taking him to a frankly risible six-over par for the round – a performance as astounding as it was unexpected.
This week was meant to mark the great man's return to centre stage, a renewal of his assault on Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major championships. Instead, it served only to give succour to those who believe Woods will never climb to the top of that particular mountain.
He may have won twice on the PGA Tour this year but, the argument goes, major championships offer an altogether stiffer challenge, both in terms of the course set-up and the mindset of those competing against him.
The inescapable truth is that Woods no longer scares those competing against him, least of all in these major championship settings.
And why would he? After all, he has not won a major since the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
Sure, that famous victory earned him the eternal respect of his peers but Northern Ireland's McDowell and Furyk are professional golfers, hardened competitors with agendas of their own which do not include paying homage to the past deeds of Tiger Woods.
By the time they stepped on to the 1st tee, they held a nine-shot advantage over the former world No1 and knew that the biggest threat to their ambition would come from the likes of the equally experienced Lee Westwood and Ernie Els, both of whom began the day three shots off the lead.
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image: © Keith Allison