Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter are in desperate need of some inspiration as they head into one of the biggest weeks of the golfing year.
Montgomerie, European number one for a staggering eighth time last season, has now missed three successive halfway cuts following a second-round 77 at the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando.
But that score was still five strokes better than Poulter managed after he ran up a quintuple bogey eight on the short 17th.
It was the second year running the Milton Keynes golfer has taken 82 on the course, but this time it means a lot more.
Only three players out of 118 came in with a worse halfway total than Poulter’s 10 over par and by crashing out of the tournament the Ryder Cup star can expect another tumble down the world rankings from his current 66th.
He was hoping to move in the other direction and if he cannot get into the top 50 after this coming week’s Players Championship at Sawgrass he will not be going to the Masters at Augusta.
It may mean finishing in the top three next Sunday, and against the strongest field of the year that is one tall order.
Poulter was already on his way out when he arrived at the 17th tee yesterday. The hole is not as frightening as the island green 17th at Sawgrass, but he will not forget it in a hurry after dumping two balls in the water and with his third attempt missing the green, chipping to seven feet and missing the putt.
Montgomerie, meanwhile, could not manage a single birdie all day and so made an early exit just as he did from the Desert Classic in Dubai and Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth.
The two players leave a tournament currently being led by American Lucas Glover, whose one US Tour victory came last October in dramatic fashion at the Walt Disney Classic. He rolled in a 40-foot putt on the penultimate hole and then sank a 100-yard bunker shot on the last.
Successive 67s have put the South Carolina player on 10 under par, one ahead of Australians Robert Allenby and Rod Pampling.
World number one Tiger Woods had seven strokes to make up when he resumed today on three under and in joint 25th place.
That was obviously not where the four-time winner of the title wanted to be in his pursuit of a fourth victory in six starts this year.
“I just need to get my irons a little bit better,” he commented. “It’s been taking a while to get something positive going this week for some reason, but it’s my fault for not hitting the ball proper distances.
“I’ve just got to make sure my swing plane is correct and I’m spinning the ball the way I should be and my launch angles are correct.”
Four Europeans were ahead of Woods at halfway – Justin Rose at four under, Lee Westwood and Greg Owen at five and Sergio Garcia in joint fifth place at seven.
The Spaniard now needs to be referred to as ‘the long-haired Spaniard’. He has not had it cut all year after striking up a bet with Australian Adam Scott and South African Tim Clark.
As long as he keeps playing well Garcia will not care how long it gets.
It has not been the best of starts for the 26-year-old this season, but the main events are still to come, of course, and he said: “I feel like I’m getting better every week. There are still some things to work on.”
On the 11th hole, just his second of the day, Garcia put a three-wood into the water on the way to a double-bogey six.
“Bad management there, but I feel like that was really the only shot I missed,” he added after hitting back with six birdies, four of them in a front nine 32.
Ernie Els was disappointed with a 73 that left him only one in front of Woods and six behind Glover – he had been one off the lead after an opening 67 – but Darren Clarke improved three strokes on his first day 73 to make the cut on one under along with Nick Faldo.
Out along with Montgomerie and Poulter went Brian Davis on two over and Paul Lawrie on seven over.
Ireland's Darren Clarke carded a two under par 70 to move to one under par.