Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy in happier times

One was devastated and looking for time off to mend his shattered confidence and recover his love for the game. The other was simply marking a disappointing Masters performance down to experience and wishing he had another tournament to play next week.

You could be forgiven for thinking that 20 year old Rory McIlroy was the player chalking down his first missed cut in a major as part of the learning curve with three-time major winner Padraig Harrington the man likely to be the most disappointed.

Instead it was the young Ulsterman who sounded like a candidate for suicide watch after he added a 77 to his opening 74 to miss out on the weekend action for the first time in six major championship appearances.

One has to wonder just how serious McIlroy’s back injury really is considering the black cloud of negativity that hovered over the young Ulsterman’s Titleist cap as he trooped off the 18th yesterday.

While he insists that the bone injury is nearly 100 percent healed, his psyche is most certainly damaged after every weakness in his game was relentlessly exposed by Augusta National this week.

“I am just not myself at the moment and this is the sort of golf course that makes your mistakes look even worse when you are slightly off,” McIlroy confessed. “But I just didn’t play well. I am disappointed but I have a couple of weeks now to work on it and try and get it back. I played the par fives poorly this week and it’s just not all there so I need a bit of time to get it back on track.

“I don’t know what is going on. I just need to take a bit of a break and come back with a refreshed attitude. I am getting frustrated very easily and getting down on myself and I just think that I need to go home and get my head sorted.”

He added: ““I have felt this down before – probably the summer of 2008 but all it takes is one good week and you can be back up there. 

“Sometimes I just think I need to get back to the way I was when I was a kid, just going out there and whacking it, finding it and whacking it again. Sometimes your head can get a bit muddled up with a lot things – I just have to enjoy it again.”

McIlroy is scheduled to play I am supposed to play Quail Hollow in three weeks time but now appears keen to take six weeks off before returning at the BMW PGA Championship.

“I might need a bit more time to let this injury clear up and clear my head and maybe come back at Wentworth,” he said. “We will see what happens. 

“The back is okay – I can still feel it but if I rest it then it will be fine. I just need to go home for a while and see what I need to do for the rest of the season to get better.

“I just think the whole game is getting to me at the moment. I am just not enjoying myself. I think I just need to go home for a few weeks and try and sort my head out. 

McIlroy is now in danger of losing the PGA Tour card he took out this season. He must play 15 events and finish inside the top 125 in the money list but he was already 127th starting the week and he has is now likely to drop further.

“It might be a struggle to keep the US Tour card but I am not concerned about that at the moment,” he said. “I just need to get back into decent shape. I don’t think this is due to the expectation on me – I have done all of these great things myself so a lot of that expectation is from myself. 

“Maybe I just need to sit down and tell myself that I am only 20 years old and that things are actually going well for me, but I do expect better from myself and it has been a disappointing few months.”

Harrington added a 75 to his opening 74 as Augusta National punished him for chasing a score.

Bogeys at the fourth and eighth forced him to attack and his hopes all but ended when he double bogey the 10th, where he tried to manufacture a banana style escape from trees on the right but went further right and ended up needing a penalty drop.

The resultant six left him all but out for the count but he still managed to flirt with the cut line. He brilliantly birdied the 12th and 13th, firing an eight iron to six inches at the par three and a six iron to two feet at the par five.

But the triple major winner failed to convert birdie chances at the 15th or 16th and he bogeyed the last to miss the cut for the first time at Augusta since 2005.

“I didn’t play very well yesterday and did well to shot the score and it was kind of the opposite today – I played well and didn’t score,” Harrington said. “It was tough today, the pins were very tough and I got on to the back foot and tried to go after them. 

“I never had the luxury of making mistakes today and a couple of holes got away from me. It is a bad time to play like that given the week that it is. 

“I did play better today but I had a few situations today when the wind changed on me and things like that and when you are in that situation then those shots are very precious.”

Harrington’s poor week did not come as a total surprise to him after his weekend struggles in the Shell Houston Open last week.

“I hit a couple of errant shots early on yesterday and lost a bit of confidence and was on the back foot after that,” he added, explaining that he might stay on in Augusta to practice. “I am very happy where things are at, it just didn’t go for me this week.

“I wouldn’t say that I was surprised by the way things went for me this week – I played a bit like that last week and lost a bit of confidence in my game last week and then when that happened again at the start of this week then it set me back and the confidence just wasn’t there.

“I had a few chances today that I didn’t take and when those things happen, especially when you need to take those chances, then it cuts into you.”