Abu Dhabi: World number one Rory McIlroy struggled for the second consecutive day to miss the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, and his playing partner and world number two Tiger Woods also made an early exit under unexpected circumstances.
Though Woods battled back from a poor start and looked to be heading into day three’s starting list, he was hit with a two-stroke penalty which saw him end on a three-over-par 147 to join McIlroy in crashing out of the tournament.
McIlroy, apart from being rusty, also seemed to struggle with his new Nike clubs and was spotted reverting back to a club from his previous sponsor.
The world number one, starting with a three-over-par score of 75, hit trouble early on and, following three more bogeys, by the seventh hole he looked in grave danger. Two consecutive bogeys gave the Northern Irishman some hope, but a bogey on the 10th and another on the 14th left him missing the cut in an event where he has enjoyed a brilliant record, including second places in the previous two years.
Meanwhile, Woods’ “embedded-ball” incident led to three-time Abu Dhabi winner Martin Kaymer getting involved while McIlroy watched from a distance. On the fifth hole, Woods called Kaymer to look at what he felt was an embedded ball and, after both agreed it was unplayable, Woods dropped the ball and resumed his shot.
“I thought my ball was embedded, so I called Martin over. He agreed. But the referee Andy [McPhee] ruled that I had broken a rule there and consequently I got a two-shot penalty,” Woods explained later. Though Woods finished his round one-over par, he was told about the impending penalty on hole 11 and the two penalty shots forced him to miss the cut.
Clarifying the penalty, European Tour Chief Referee McPhee said the incident had been brought to his attention by some spectators.
“Spectators spoke to a referee to say they were curious as to why the drop was given. I don’t actually think they realised what can they were opening. And the referee said ‘well, you know, it would likely be an embedded ball’. But then, when he went to look at the area, he thought to himself ‘I’m not so sure I would give that’. So then he called me and I went and had a look at it, and for sure, there’s no question about it the ball was embedded in sand.”
“So once we established what had gone on, I had a conversation with Tiger as he came off the 11th tee, because I was aware of his position score wise on the leaderboard, and I wanted him to know that there was a possibility that a penalty had been occurred. In the recording area we had further conversations and Tiger was quite happy to accept. He said ‘Look, if you think that area is not entitled to a drop, then that’s good enough for me’. He didn’t see the need to go further out. He just accepted the two-stroke penalty, and we did that in the recording area, added it to his score on the fifth and that’s that,” said McPhee.