Rory McIlroy crashed out of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in spectacular fashion as England’s James Morrison opened a four-shot lead at the halfway point following a stunning 64.
World number one McIlroy endured his worst-ever tournament performance in Europe as he followed Thursday’s disappointing 74 with an awful second round of 79 to miss the halfway cut by eight strokes.
That prompted a frank admission from the Northern Irishman who is just three weeks away from the defence of his US Open title.
“I think I might have taken my eye off the ball a bit,” stated McIlroy after a round that included seven bogeys and two double-bogeys.
It is his second successive missed cut following his early exit from the Players Championship in Florida a fortnight ago and at nine-over-par he ended up an incredible 21 strokes behind runaway leader Morrison.
Before the wind got up world number 236 Morrison, who switched to golf after playing for the England youth cricket team alongside current Test stars Alastair Cook and Tim Bresnan, added a sparkling 64 to his opening 68.
At 12-under-par the 27-year-old moved four clear of world number two Luke Donald, who won the title at only six-under last year, and Scot David Drysdale.
Donald now needs only a top-eight finish to take the number one spot back off McIlroy in what would be the sixth change at the top in under three months.
“It’s just a week I’d like to forget,” added the 23-year-old McIlroy. “I just feel I’ve lacked competitive rounds and maybe just not practising as hard as I might have been.
“Maybe it’s a good thing I have the next two days off to practise. Everything was not really on song. I just have to go and work hard and try to get it back.”
McIlroy, whose week also included a club-throwing show of frustration that is likely to result in a European Tour fine, fell apart around the turn for the second day running.
One-under-par and inside the cut mark after seven holes, he double-bogeyed the next and then had five bogeys in a row.
A par at the short 14th was almost a cause for celebration – he had to get up and down from sand for that – but when he double-bogeyed the next after another bad drive only five players in the 150-strong field were below him.
It needed a two-putt birdie at the par five last for him to break 80, prompting him to comment: “I really wanted to make four. It’s not nice to play like this and not nice two weeks (he meant tournament weeks) in a row.”
His previous worst finish in Europe as a professional was 116th – in the same event three years ago when he followed a 74 with a 77.
Morrison had earlier jumped out of the shadows by following six birdies with a 25-foot eagle putt on the 539-yard last.
His story is a remarkable one. The 27-year-old did not start golf until he was 16, but went from 18-handicap to scratch in 10 months – prompting him to give up on cricket.
“I haven’t really looked back,” he said. “Playing golf is better than standing in the field all day!”
“I expect a lot, but if I shoot 80 or 65 I’ll take what I can from it,” he said. “I desperately, desperately, desperately want to keep going forward and that’s my problem sometimes – I’m too eager, too keen, too determined I guess.
“I’ve been playing great, but been getting in the way of myself. I’m going to do my best and that’s all I can do.”
Donald remains the favourite for the title, however, after his second successive 68 which included five birdies and an eagle.
Open champion Darren Clarke crashed out as well – he has still to make a cut all year – and so did three-major winner Padraig Harrington and 2009 champion Paul Casey on his latest return from injury.
World number three Lee Westwood, out of bounds with his drive as he followed bogeys on the 15th and 16th with a double-bogey seven at the next, was in severe danger of missing the cut at that point.
But he got up and down from sand on the last for a birdie, a 75 and a one-over total that he knew was likely to be just good enough to survive to the weekend.