Tiger Woods was hit with a controversial two-stroke penalty today and is now poised to join world number one Rory McIlroy in missing the halfway cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Despite changing to his old putter in the week he started playing with Nike clubs, McIlroy recorded a second successive 75 to crashed out of an event in which finished as runner-up last year.
It later emerged McIlroy’s playing partner Woods was in trouble over an embedded-ball incident on the fifth.
The American thought he had dropped just a single shot – one of four bogeys in his first five holes – but was told on the 11th the matter was being investigated.
Woods appeared to have finished safely inside the cut mark on one over, but his bogey five was changed to a triple-bogey seven after discussions with European Tour senior referee Andy McFee.
The world number two must wait for confirmation that he will not be around for the weekend, but he fears the worst.
“Andy feels the way he feels about it and I broke the rules,” Woods said.
At the time he had asked Martin Kaymer, the other member of the star group, to examine the lie in among the ice plants.
“I called Martin over to verify the ball was embedded. We both agreed, but evidently it was not sand,” he explained.
“It’s tough. I didn’t get off to a very good start and I fought. I got it back.”
On his switch back to a Scotty Cameron putter, 23-year-old McIlroy said: “I just felt the greens I have been practising on were much faster. It was just a weight issue.
“I’m not here to talk about my (Nike) contract. I’m here to talk about my golf. I’ve got four weeks to work on it. I knew it was going to be a tough week. I hit the ball really well in Dubai last week, but it just got worse for some reason.
“I’m very disappointed. You never want to get off to a poor start, but I’ve got to realise it’s only the start of the season.”
England’s Justin Rose continued to enjoy himself in the desert sun, meanwhile.
The 32-year-old added a 69 to his opening 67 and on eight under par was one ahead of Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, both of whom still had the closing stretch to play.
“I felt like my game definitely sharpened up,” Rose said. “When you have perfect distance control you know you are swinging it well.
“I thought it was a decent enough score to keep the momentum going. I was pin-high probably eight times, but kept leaving myself awkward distances and had to keep patient.”
A six-foot putt at the 475-yard 16th produced his only deviation from par on the back nine and he then converted 15-foot chances on the second and fourth, but in between dropped his only shot after missing the green.
The finish was spectacular, however. An eight-iron approach pulled up and only a foot from the flag and he said: “I can make those!”
Rose had only Open champion Ernie Els as his playing partner, Robert Rock pulling out through illness after a 76.
Els double-bogeyed the third and dropped two other shots, but also had three birdies for a 73 and level-par aggregate.
Padraig Harrington was on the same mark after a second successive 72, but with a 73 fellow Dubliner Paul McGinley was heading out on five over in his first tournament since being named as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain.
“I really want to be competitive – I think it’s an important part of the job,” said the 46-year-old.
As captain he can look forward to invitations to the USPGA Championship this year and next, but added: “I don’t want to go there ceremonially.”