The body language says it all for Rory McIlroy, doesn’t it? The world no. 1 hung in there on the front nine at even par, but fatigue caught up with him on the back and he shot a six-over 78 to miss the cut at the BMW PGA Championship.
Despite expressing his slight disappointment that he wouldn’t be able to attempt to defend his title at Wentworth over the weekend, there’s a silver lining that comes with having the weekend off — which is exactly that.
McIlroy, who was playing in his fourth straight tournament in just as many weeks, will spend the weekend recovering and getting some much-needed rest in Belfast after posting a five-over through 36 holes at the European Tour’s flagship event. Rory will get some well-deserved R&R prior to next week’s festivities at the Irish Open at Royal County Down — not far from his hometown of Holywood in Northern Ireland — where he’s also playing host for the first time, with proceeds from the tournament benefiting the Rory Foundation.
“If anything good comes out of this, it’s just that I get a little bit of a rest over the next couple of days, and feel a bit fresher for what’s going to be a really big week for me next week,” he said.
McIlroy almost sounded relieved after missing the cut.
“I’m not angry,” he said. “(I’m) a little disappointed I’m not going to be here for the weekend, but if there was any weekend to miss, coming off the back of three good weeks in the States, I’m probably in need of a little bit of a rest. As I said, I’d still rather be here but it’s not all bad getting to go home for the weekend.”
McIlroy headed into the BMW PGA in top form, coming off two wins at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship and a top-ten at The Players Championship in the last three weeks. So, what went wrong at Wentworth? Well, he’s probably super tired. As weird as this may sound to some, tournament golf is mentally grueling, not to mention contending and winning. The Match Play event was an extra-long week, where McIlroy played (and won) seven matches over five days. While he made his win at Quail Hollow last week look relatively easy, he still had to deal with the added pressure of closing out.
“I think it was,” said McIlroy when asked if his poor play was a result of mental fatigue. “Especially when I was trying to muster up a few birdies coming down the back nine, I just couldn’t really get anything going. As I said, a couple of days over the weekend to refresh mentally, I’ll be okay for next week.”
Chalk up Rory’s 78 to exhaustion and count it as an anomaly. It was McIlroy’s highest score since the second round of the Scottish Open last July, where he posted the same number. But, there’s no need to panic or turn this into some sort of calamity. In fact, McIlroy’s long-term relationship with the West Course hasn’t been the strongest. Prior to his spectacular come-from-behind victory here last year, he had missed the cut in the previous two years.
“I’m not going to read too much into it,” said McIlroy. “It was inevitable at some point that the run was going to come to a bit of an end. I’m sort of back to my usual at Wentworth. It wasn’t great before I won last year and it hasn’t been great after. It is what it is.”
This marked McIlroy’s second missed cut of the year and his third in his last 45 starts. The 76 players, who survived to play the weekend, will be chasing Francesco Molinari, who is at 10-under for the championship.
Meanwhile, the greens at Wentworth have been a hot topic this week. Since it’s been a cold spring, it’s impacted the quality of the greens. McIlroy, who isn’t the best putter in the world but also not the worst, noticeably struggled with them. After his first round, he noted that they weren’t in great shape, but everyone was dealing with the same conditions. Luke Donald, who has won the BMW PGA Championship twice, certainly didn’t mince words after he posted a second consecutive two-under 70, which puts him at a tie for 11th at the halfway mark.
“They have got worse each year since they redid them,” said Donald. “They don’t look very good on TV; they putt OK, but there are a few putts out there that don’t stay on the line you hit them. If there was one championship that the greens should be pristine then this is it, because this our biggest event, our flagship event. I think that the only fix is to redo them again.
“I am not sure what the problem has been because there are other courses in this area with good greens. Maybe because it has so much traffic, I don’t know. I don’t want to criticize the greens staff as the rest of the course is pristine. I just think it’s a shame the greens aren’t quite as good as they should be for a tournament of this size.”
Justin Rose also wasn’t impressed.
“I had a four-foot putt at the last and it looked easy on the TV, but that was different from the running commentary in my head,” said Rose after posting a level-par 72. “You don’t trust your read on these greens and it becomes mental. It is disappointing in the sense that the whole reason they changed the greens on this course was that if anyone had a six-foot putt on the last green on Sunday to win they would feel confident about holing it. You now can’t say for sure that will happen as they are not super true.”