Rory McIlroy’s meteoric rise in the world rankings shuddered to a halt when he missed the cut in the Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
The Ulster teenager soared to world No 49 thanks to six top tens, including two second place finishes, in his last seven starts.
But he failed to continue his magical run at Leopard Creek after a level par 72 left him one stroke outside the qualifying mark on one-under par 143.
McIlroy is unlikely to lose his place in the world’s top 50 and can still improve his end of year position and guarantee himself an invite to Augusta National for the Masters when he ends his season in next week’s South African Open at Pearl Valley.
McIlroy’s compatriot and Walker Cup partner Jonny Caldwell leads the Irish challenge on eight-under par after a brilliant 67 left him just three shots behind leaders Oskar Henningsson of Sweden, England’s Robert Rock and former Masters runner up Len Mattiace of the United States.
In his rookie appearance on the European Tour, Q-School graduate Caldwell had seven birdies and two bogeys in a five-under par effort to share 13th place with Damien McGrane, who fired a brilliant 66, on seven--under par.
Title favourite Lee Westwood is tied for 10th on eight under while Challenge Tour graduate Gareth Maybin hit a 69 to make the cut with ease on three-under par.
Michael Hoey and Gary Murphy missed the cut after respective rounds of 75 and 73.