Rory McIlroy will be nowhere to be seen at Wentworth as England’s James Morrison takes a four-stroke lead into the BMW PGA Championship tomorrow.
In a truly shocking display, the world number one not just missed the halfway cut for a second successive tournament, but was not far off last place following a nightmare 79.
It followed his early exit from the Players Championship in Florida a fortnight ago – and all this with his defence of the US Open now less than three weeks away.
McIlroy, whose week also included a club-throwing show of frustration that is likely to result in a European Tour fine, fell apart around the turn for the second day running.
One under par and inside the cut mark after seven holes, he double-bogeyed the next and then had five bogeys in a row.
A par at the short 14th was almost a cause for celebration – he had to get up and down from sand for that – but when he double-bogeyed the next after another bad drive, only five players in the 150-strong field were below him.
In stark contrast, world number 236 Morrison, who switched to golf after playing for the England youth cricket team alongside Alastair Cook and Tim Bresnan, added a sparkling 64 to his opening 68.
At 12 under par he was four clear of world number two Luke Donald, who won the title at only six under last year, and Scot David Drysdale.
Donald now needs only a top-eight finish to take the number one spot back off McIlroy. It would be the sixth change at the top in under three months.
Before the wind got up, Morrison jumped out of the shadows by following six birdies with a 25-foot eagle putt on the 539-yard last.
His story is a remarkable one. The 27-year-old did not start golf until he was 16, but went from 18-handicap to scratch in 10 months.
That prompted him to give up cricket, despite his final game for Surrey Under-17s being an innings of 114 not out.
“I haven’t really looked back,” he said. “Playing golf is better than standing in the field all day.”
The money is better too. He has already won over around £750,000 despite his only Tour title being the relatively minor Madeira Irelands Open in 2010 – and first prize this weekend is almost £600,000.
As for what he faces over the closing 36 holes Morrison, who was joint leader with a round to go in the French Open last summer and went in the water on the first two holes, is not getting ahead of himself.
“I expect a lot, but if I shoot 80 or 65 I’ll take what I can from it,” Morrison said.
“I desperately, desperately, desperately want to keep going forward and that’s my problem sometimes – I’m too eager, too keen, too determined I guess.
“I’ve been playing great, but been getting in the way of myself. I’m going to do my best and that’s all I can do.”
Donald is form favourite for the title, however, after his second successive 68.
Open champion Darren Clarke crashed out as well – he has still to make a cut all year – and so did three-major winner Padraig Harrington and 2009 champion Paul Casey on his latest return from injury.
World number three Lee Westwood, out of bounds with his drive as he followed bogeys on the 15th and 16th with a double-bogey seven at the next, had to wait to see if he made it through.
He birdied the last for a 75 and one-over aggregate, the expected cut mark.
2 GOLF Wentworth 4th Lead
McIlroy, nine over for the two rounds and only under 80 thanks to a closing two-putt birdie, said: ``I think I may have taken my eye off the ball a little bit, maybe not practising as hard as I had been.
“It’s been a week I’d like to forget. It’s not nice to play like this and not nice two weeks in a row. Maybe it’s a good thing I have two days off to practise and I’m looking to getting back to the States next week.
“I just feel I’ve lacked competitive rounds.”
He plays the Memorial tournament in Ohio before a week off and then his US Open defence.