McIlroy and Woods miss Abu Dhabi cut
If you were looking forward to watching the world's top two Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in the final two rounds of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this weekend, then forget it.
Both have already crashed out, Woods all because of a two-shot penalty imposed after he finished today.
In a miserable start to his season, world number one McIlroy slumped to back-to-back 75s in his first tournament since signing a mega-million equipment deal with Nike. He ended up only joint 98th in a field of 126.
The 23-year-old even abandoned one of their putters to go back to an old faithful for the second round, but the result was the same.
That would have been a big enough story in itself, but then came the drama concerning Woods.
Just about everybody watching thought he had made it through to the closing 36 holes with a stroke to spare on over par, nine behind halfway leader Justin Rose.
Before signing his card, however, the two extra shots were added by European Tour chief referee Andy McFee over an incident at the fifth hole.
It dropped him from joint 49th into a tie for 71st, with only the leading 65 and ties surviving.
"Andy feels the way he feels about it, then I broke the rules," said a clearly unhappy Woods, who now heads back to America for next week's event at Torrey Pines near San Diego.
The 14-major champion has never before in his professional career missed the cut in a non-PGA Tour event.
Playing with McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, Woods had called the German over to inspect his lie in among the ice plants right of the fifth fairway.
"I thought my ball was embedded and he (Kaymer) agreed. Evidently it wasn't," Woods added.
Two reporters spoke to a different referee out on the course and McFee was then alerted.
"I went and had a look," the experienced official said. "The area has loose, creeping vegetation, but it's pure sand underneath and it didn't look likely that the embedded-ball relief applied to Tiger's situation."
Woods, in other words, could have taken a penalty drop for an unplayable lie - and would have made the cut as a result - but he thought he was entitled to a free drop and that was his and Kaymer's mistake.
McFee spoke to the American on the 11th hole to alert him to the possibility of penalty shots; McFee could not be certain at the time because he did not know the exact situation at that time.
"I wanted him to know," McFee added. "It might affect his strategy going forward. He wanted to continue and thought he had done the right thing at the time.
"When we got into the recording area (after Woods had just missed a birdie putt on the last) I asked if he wanted to go out and have a look.
"He said 'Look, if you think that's the right ruling that's good enough for me'. He took the two-stroke penalty and signed the card."
McIlroy's next event is the Accenture Match Play in Arizona starting February 20.
Birdies at the eighth and ninth, where he chipped-in after nearly going in the water off the tee, hinted at a possible fightback, but he bogeyed the long 10th and 14th.
On his decision to change putters he commented: "I just felt like the greens that I've been practising on are a lot faster than these.
"The Nike putter is great on that, but getting to here it's just a weight issue more than anything else.
"I can feel the head of the one I used today a little bit better, but the change was to no avail.
"I've got a few weeks off now to work at it and try and get my game in decent shape for the US.
"I knew it was going to be a tough week with everything going on, but I was just looking forward to getting to the golf course and getting back to what I do and what I'm comfortable with.
"It just didn't work out like that. I hit the ball really well last week in practice in Dubai and just sort of gradually got worse this week for some reason.
"But I'm going to spend the weekend here and practise and work at it with Michael (coach Michael Bannon) a little bit.
"It's very disappointing. You really want to get off to a nice start at the start of the season, but I've got to realise that it is only the start of the season.
"As long as I feel like my game is in good shape heading into Augusta (the US Masters on April 11-14) that's all I'm worried about."
It is not as if missed cuts are a rarity to him like they are for Woods. McIlroy missed five last season.
"I wouldn't look too much into it. If anything it's more the Indian than the arrow at this point."
World number five Rose, meanwhile, leads by a shot from Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
He added a 69 to his opening 67 and even felt he played better for it.
"I felt like my game definitely sharpened up," Rose said. "When you have perfect distance control you know you are swinging it well."
His finish was spectacular. An eight-iron approach pulled up and only a foot from the flag and he said: "I can make those!"
Rose had only Open champion Ernie Els as his playing partner, defending champion Robert Rock pulling out through illness after a 76.
Gareth Maybin leads the Irish challenge on two under.