For Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, an exciting week started with Nike unveiling a slick new ad for their two poster boys. But it ends early with disappointment in Abu Dhabi as both the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world missed the cut at the HSBC Championship.
Woods will not play on the weekend due to a controversial ruling, where he believed he had made bogey after given relief from an embedded ball. On the fifth hole, Tiger took what he thought was a free drop, and went on to make bogey. But after his round was completed, the rules officials said his ball was not embedded, and he was issued a two-stroke penalty -- making it a triple bogey on No. 5 and resulting in a missed cut. He finished his two-day tournament with a round of 75, 3-over and one shot below the cut line. It's his first MC in a regular Euro Tour event.
Tiger said the rules official, and playing partner Martin Kaymer, agreed with him that it was embedded but after the round, he was told the area it landed was "sandy-based" and that such a ruling was not available. He was apparently made aware of the potential penalty on 11th hole, but the final ruling had not been made at that time. Woods was obviously miffed about the post-round controversy, which ended his tournament at the midpoint.
But his play though the first 36 holes also put him in that position. Tiger bogeyed three of his first four holes to start the second round, badly missing the green right and hitting a poor chip shot to open things on Friday. Obviously, the biggest mistake would come on No. 5, but those first four holes set the pace for another slog in the desert.
On the seventh hole, a birdie putt lipped out for Woods and he stayed at 4-over through the front nine, on the wrong side of the cut line. It was just one of the near-misses that could have, as it turns out, kept his weekend alive.
Tiger made a charge on the back side, draining birdie putts on three straight holes (No. 14 through 16) to get to what he thought was even-par. But that hot streak came to an end on No. 17, when Woods sent his drive way left and made bogey -- a crucial number given the ruling that was coming down in the clubhouse. That bogey and par on the par-5 18th sealed his time in Abu Dhabi, and he'll now have plenty of turnaround to make the trip to Torrey Pines next week.
For the second straight day, McIlroy fired a round of 75. Rory hit just seven fairways and 10 greens in another round where he scuffled from start to finish. He hit a terrible chip shot on his fourth hole, leaving it short of the green in what was just the start of another ugly march. It came undone again for Rory on No. 10, when he found a fairway bunker and could only advance it minimally down the right rough.
McIlroy was all over the yard, and plenty will jump to the conclusion that he's not comfortable with his new Nike equipment. Rory added fuel to that fire as well, when he put his old Scotty Cameron putter, but with a Nike cover, in the bag for just his second round of the 2013 season. After the round, he claimed he made the switch back because the greens were running slow and the Nike putter was too light. But the move, in just his second round with Nike, will certainly provoke skepticism about his comfort with his new clubs.
While the two most high-profile players go home, the third, Justin Rose, sets the pace and leads at 8-under after two rounds.
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