A weary Rory McIlroy won’t be defending his Hong Kong Open title.
The world No. 1 and newly crowned Race to Dubai champ may have been fresh from clinching his first PGA of America Player of the Year award, but that was the only thing crisp about McIlroy’s short week. Indeed, the two-time major champ, who was hoping to finish out his stellar 2012 season with back-to-back wins in Hong Kong and at next week’s World Tour Championship in Dubai, described himself as “mentally lethargic” during the first round at Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
McIlroy has had a whirlwind end to a jam-packed season and his lackluster play, which included an opening-round 3-over 73 followed by a 72, backed up that assertion. Four bogeys and a double more than offset four birdies on Friday, leaving McIlroy in a tie for 88th and three strokes south of the cut line.
"It's disappointing, you never want to miss the cut and even more when you are defending a tournament," McIlroy told reporters about his performance at an event in which he has two top-10 finishes, in addition to last year’s W, in the past three years. "So it's not the week I wanted but then I have a few days to work on my putting and try and get ready for Dubai."
One player not particularly sorry to see Tiger Woods’ favorite playing partner bomb out was 36-hole leader Michael Campbell, who said the path to his first win in seven years would be less difficult without the world’s best player in the field.
''It now makes winning the Hong Kong Open a lot easier, definitely,'' said Campbell, an eight-time European Tour winner whose last victory was at the 2005 World Matchplay Championship.
The 43-year-old New Zealander conceded that quitting the game had crossed his mind more than once during his long drought but that the performances of others of his generation --including reigning British Open champ Ernie Els and 2010 FedEx Cup winner Jim Furyk -- gave him hope.
''There have been times where I wanted to throw it in, but what's really inspired me over the last, particularly over the last four or five years, is seeing my friends around the same age bracket as me, the 40-plus club,” said Campbell. ''So being 40 isn't that bad playing golf, and seeing my friends win tournaments left, right and center definitely inspired me to don't give up and keep on playing.''
As for McIlroy, who wrapped up the Euro Tour money title with a second-place finish at the BMW Masters in October and a third at last week’s Singapore Open, the Ulsterman was off to Dubai for the season finale and a reunion of most of the members of his victorious Ryder Cup team. Two of them -- Luke Donald and Ian Poulter were faring well in their penultimate events of the 2012 season.
Donald owned a four-shot lead halfway through the Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Japan, while Poulter was five shots off the lead through two rounds at the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath in Melbourne.