For a snapshot of where Tiger Woods' game is at the moment, consider the Frys.com Open. It was the first time in more than 12 years that he played all four rounds of a full-field tournament and failed to earn any world ranking points.
One reason is he tied for 30th, recovering from a bad start with three rounds of 68. A larger reason is the field at CordeValle was the third-strongest in golf last week -- behind the Madrid Masters and Korea Open -- that it only doled out points to the top 29 players.
This is the second year of the McGladrey Classic, whose inaugural staging was won last year by Heath Slocum.
It was only the 10th time in his career that Woods played an entire tournament without getting world ranking points.
The most recent occasion was last year at Firestone, with a limited field, when he tied for 78th out of 80 players. Otherwise, go all the way back to his tie for 56th at the 1999 Bay Hill Invitational for the last time Woods went four rounds and received no points (he also was shut out at the International that summer, but failed to qualify for the final round).
So what does it mean?
In the short term, he dropped to No. 52 in the world and will remain out of the top 50 for at least five more weeks until he plays the Australian Open, which is shaping up to have a strong field.
In the long term? That's more difficult to gauge.
He said his goal last week in the Fall Series event was to win, although that was his goal when he made his pro debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996 and tied for 60th. Woods also said he made progress, that he "got better every day."
Indeed, there was a stretch of about four or five holes on Friday and Sunday when Woods produced some palpable energy with his golf, only to settle into mediocrity and lose his momentum. Even so, he finished 10 shots out of the lead.
In the seven stroke-play tournaments that he finished this year, the closest Woods came to winning was at the Masters, where he wound up four shots behind Charl Schwartzel. Other than that, he was never closer than seven shots of the winner (Dubai, Bay Hill) and CordeValle was the third time he was at least 10 shots out of the lead.
Not even Woods was sure where he was.
"It's getting there," he said. "It's a process. I don't know what the end is. That's one of those things when the career is all said and done, then you know. But I'm in the midst of it, and I know I'm getting better, and that's the tough part."