ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday, a woeful start to the season for the world’s top two golfers.
Woods missed it after he was penalized two shots for wrongly taking a free drop, while top-ranked McIlroy was frustrated trying to adjust to his new Nike clubs, even though he used his old Titleist putter in the second round. Both finished with 3-over 75s.
“When you don’t hit fairways on this golf course, you can’t score,” McIlroy said.
Justin Rose played solid, mistake-free golf. Away from the large galleries, the Englishman shot a 69 for a 136 total and a one-shot lead at the halfway point over Jamie Donaldson (70) of Wales , Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (67) of Spain and Thorbjorn Olesen (69) of Denmark .
Woods and McIlroy were expected to contend for the lead but often looked like weekend golfers. Their struggles captivated the crowds and their departure means it is the first time the world’s top two players missed a cut in the same tournament since McIlroy and Luke Donald at the 2012 U.S. Open. The last time in a regular tournament came in 2005 by Woods and Vijay Singh at Disney World.
“I didn’t hit it particularly well. I putted great but just didn’t hit it very good. I was struggling with that,” Woods said. “I have some work to do, and next week I’m playing at Torrey (in San Diego), and obviously it will be different weather there, so going to go back and get ready.”
Woods thought he was safe in finishing his second round at 73. But he was advised by the European Tour chief referee Andy McFee of the penalty, giving him a 75 and 3-over total of 147. The cut for the top 60 plus ties was 2 over.
McFee said he warned Woods on the 11th tee of the penalty, which was a result of his taking a free drop when his ball was embedded in sand. It’s not allowed.
“I called Martin [Kaymer] over to verify the ball was embedded. We both agreed it was embedded and evidently it was in sand,” Woods said of the infraction that happened when his drive on 5 landed in a bed of vines. “Andy ruled I broke an infraction, consequently got a two-shot penalty. Andy feels the way he feels about it and I broke the rules.”
Kaymer said he thought the ball was embedded and was surprised to hear of the ruling.
“I didn’t know about it and he obviously didn’t know about it, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it. It’s an unfortunate thing,” Kaymer said. “Obviously he was fighting back a lot, and he was 3 or 4 over par, and trying to make the cut. He was playing very well coming in. He was making nice putts in the end.”
McFee said Woods didn’t challenge him on the ruling. It came to light when a spectator alerted the European Tour to the infraction, he said. After the drop, a reporter heard some spectators questioning whether the drop was appropriate.
“An embedded ball relief is through the green but in ground other than sand,” McFee said. “I talked to him when he came off the 11th tee because I couldn’t be sure about a two-stroke penalty until we got into the recording area.”
Woods said it was frustrating to bow out of a tournament in this way, especially after he recovered from four bogeys on his first five holes – the fifth subsequently becoming a triple. He birdied five of the last 11 holes including three in a row in the back nine.
“It’s tough because I didn’t get off to a very good start. I fought and got it back,” Woods said. “I was right there and felt if I could post even par I had the chance to go into the weekend only eight back. Evidently it wasn’t enough.”
McIlroy posted a second straight 75 for a 6-over total of 150. Even a switch to his old putter for the second round didn’t help. He putted poorly, flubbed several chips and drove erratically.
McIlroy carded three bogeys on his first seven holes to all but eliminate himself from the weekend. He had a string of birdies at the turn – including a chip-in on 9 – but wasted that with a bogey on 10 and another on 14.
“I didn’t putt well again, so they were the two areas of the game; nothing was really on today,” he said. “One of those things. I’ve got a few weeks off to work at it and try and get my game in decent shape for the U.S.”
“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 realize that it is only the start of the season and there’s a lot of golf left. I said to the guys yesterday on the way back, as long as I feel like my game is in good shape heading into Augusta, that’s all I’m worried about.”
Rose started slowly but finished with a flurry. He had three of his four birdies on the back nine including on his 18th when his approach shot came within a few feet of the pin. Second at the Dubai World Championship last month, Rose said he was confident.
“There’s a difference in how I feel about my game and how I trust my game, absolutely. I believe that any tournament I tee up in, I can win,” Rose said.
Robert Rock, the defending champion from England, withdrew before the round because of illness.
LA QUINTA, Calif. James Hahn jumped all over his drive on the par-5 fifth hole at La Quinta Country Club, then hit his second shot so pure that it went a little father than he wanted.
Undaunted, he turned to his trusty 54-degree wedge and holed a 30-foot, bump-and-run chip for eagle, part of a late birdie-eagle-birdie run that gave him a share of the second-round lead Friday in the Humana Challenge.
“It was a long-drive stat hole, so I kind of came out of my shoes a little bit,” Hahn said about his 310-yard poke on the tree-lined hole.
That left him 220 yards, and he figured a smooth 3-iron was his best play
“I didn’t want to really overpower a 4-iron,” Hahn said. “I had a lot of adrenaline.”
He made perfect contact.
“Just hit it too good,” Hahn said. “Hit the center of the green, landed it 220, rolled to the back. … I could have hit it with a 6-iron and probably hit it within 2 feet.”
It didn’t matter when the chip rolled in.
“I read the break perfectly, broke about 2 feet straight down the hill,” Hahn said.
Hahn finished with a 5-under 67 to match Roberto Castro at 14 under after another day of perfect conditions in the Coachella Valley. Castro shot a 67 on PGA West’s Arnold Palmer Private Course after they began the round tied for the lead with Jason Kokrak at 63.
Hahn followed the eagle with a birdie on the par-5 sixth.
“Any time you have back-to-back par 5s that are reachable, it’s definitely something to look forward to,” Hahn said. “Especially if the round’s not going well.”
Castro had the lead alone at 16 under, but bogeyed two of his last three holes – three-putting the par-4 ninth.
“A couple slipped away there at the end, but yesterday I made a 50-footer on the last,” Castro said. “Today, I felt like I hit a good putt and three-putted. So, that’s stuff over 72 holes that’s going to even out.”
Hahn opened his rookie season on the tour last week in Hawaii with a tie for 67th in the Sony Open. The 31-year-old South Korean-born American played briefly at the University of California – “Let’s just say extracurricular activities got in the way.” – and won a Web.com Tour event last year.
“I’m just soaking it in, having a good time,” Hahn said. “Any time that I play a good round, it feels good and makes me cherish the momentum a little bit more, because I know they’re few and far between.”
Castro is in his second season on the tour. The 27-year-old former Georgia Tech player missed the cut last week in Hawaii in his first start of the year.
“I learned a lot last year,” Castro said. “One of the best things that happened to me was making a lot of the cuts early in the year. I didn’t have any big finishes, but I got to play four days and I got to learn pretty quickly. I got to play with some good players and watch what they do.”
Darron Stiles, Scott Stallings and Richard H. Lee were 13 under, all shooting 65. Stiles and Stallings played at La Quinta, and Lee was on the Palmer course.
Kokrak had a 69 on the Nicklaus course to drop into a tie for sixth at 12 under.
Phil Mickelson shot a 67 on the Nicklaus course after opening with a 72 at La Quinta. The tournament winner in 2002 and 2004, he was nine strokes behind the leaders and two strokes off the projected cut Saturday.
“The last two holes were the first time that I actually hit solid shots and my rhythm felt good and I made good wings,” Mickelson said. “I’ve been quick from the top. My rhythm has been off and I’ve hit a bunch of squirrelly shots. I made a lot of rusty mistakes.”
The tournament is his first since tying for second in early November in the HSBC Champions in China, the only event he played after the Ryder Cup. He plans to play five or six straight events, a run that will end at Riviera or the Match Play Championship.
“I really want to build some momentum here on the West Coast,” Mickelson said.
Russell Henley, the Sony Open winner Sunday in his first start as a PGA Tour member, had a 69 at the Palmer course to reach 11 under. He shot a 64 on Thursday at the Nicklaus course, and is 35 under in his first six rounds this year.
Matt Kuchar, paired with Mickelson, had a 64 – matching the best round of the day – to get to 10 under. He’s playing for the third straight week.
“It certainly helps playing the last couple of weeks,” Kuchar said. “My first week out at the Tournament of Champions there was definitely some rust and lack of scoring. Even if you have been practicing, which I was, tournament play is just a little bit different.”