Whether it was the hangover from the court case, the crosswinds, his lack of aggression or simply human nature, Rory McIlroy will miss the cut in the Honda Classic when the second round is completed today.
Summing up his feelings about his first free weekend in a tour event since he missed the Irish Open cut for the second year running eight months ago, McIlroy said: "Yeah, I'm pissed off."
He hadn't missed a cut on the PGA TOur since the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield he said he was "braindead". Indeed, his last missed cut on US soil came in the 2012 US Open at the Olympic Club, though he did leave the Honda Classic after completing just 26 holes in 2013.
"I don't like missing cuts," McIlroy said after making bogeys at three of his last four holes on PGA National's back nine, adding a four over 74 to his opening 73 on a day when four hours play were lost due to thunderstorms.
"You want to be playing on the weekend, and I'm not there. Well, I'm here; I'm home. I'm not going to be playing this weekend, which is not nice."
It was McIlroy's 2015 debut on the PGA Tour and as the heir apparent to the now absentee Tiger Woods, most observers expected him to play the way he spoke in his pre-tournament press conference. Yes, he said, he wants to be "the man."
As "a man" he's plainly human and his seven over par total has no chance of making the cut — it's projected at four over — meaning he has two fewer rounds that he planned to prepare for his career grand slam chase at Augusta National.
“I guess I don’t feel like I controlled my ball flight well at all, which you need to in the wind,” said McIlroy, who had not played since his win in Dubai on 1 February.
“The last three weeks, I haven’t really practiced in many crosswinds. I felt like I struggled in crosswinds out there,” he said.
The 25-year-old will turn his focus to next week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship which, with a limited field of the world’s top 50 players, guarantees every player four rounds.
After that tournament at Doral, McIlroy has only the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on March 19 to fine tune his play before an attempt at a ‘career grand slam’ at the Masters.
“I’m not really thinking of Augusta. I’m thinking of next week and just trying to play four solid rounds,” said McIlroy, who has won a US Open, an Open and two PGA Championships.
“Hopefully we don’t have to contend with conditions like they were this week. It has been really good on the range the last couple weeks and it’s been good in practice. Just wasn’t so good over the last couple days,” he said.
If there was any real self-criticism from McIlroy, it focused on his lack of aggression at the Honda Classic.
“Usually I’m good at taking it from the range to the course. That’s never really been a problem with me,” he said. “But this week, it was funny, it felt like the first tournament of the season when I’ve actually played two events.
“I felt yesterday maybe a little tentative, just maybe trying to ease my way into the round a little bit and not really being that aggressive. That’s why it’s nice to have four rounds next week to try and put that right.”
He also told reporters: "I guess after coming off a three-week break, felt a little... I wouldn't say rusty, but just not quite on top of my game yesterday. And then today, I felt like I was trying to get something going and couldn't.
"Coming off three weeks off and playing in conditions like these, it sort of shows you where you're game's at. Just got to regroup and put some work in and get ready for Miami next week."
After bogeying his first hole Friday morning, the 10th, he endured two rain delays and turned in two over when he went for the 18th in two from the left rough and found water, running up a six.
His only birdie of he day came at the fifth where playing partners Dustin Johnson (77-75, +12) and Brooks Koepka (78-64, +2) also birdied.
Birdies at two of his last four holes might have given him a chance to make the cut but he bogeyed three of them instead.
After, missing a six footer following a bunkered approach from the centre of the fairway at the sixth, he found sand off the tee at the par-three seventh before three-piutting the ninth from nearly 50 feet.
"Usually I'm good at taking it from the range to the course," McIlroy said. "That's never really been a problem with me. But this week, it was funny, it felt like the first tournament of the season when I've actually played two events."
The weather delayed meant that the later starters did not get to finish their rounds but it was a rare, stress-free Friday for Pádraig Harrington, who is showing signs that he is turning the corner.
Tied third overnight after compiling a super 67 in the wind on Thursday, Harrington began his second round three shots adrift of clubhouse leader Patrick Reed, who shot a second successive 67 to lead on six under.
While Brendan Steele birdied the first four holes to lead on eight under when darkness fell and play was suspended, Harrington was tied for fourth on four under having played his first six holes in one under par.
Having saved par at the 10th (his first) off a pulled drive by hitting a 40-yard pitch to three feet, he lipped out from 35 feet at the 11th, birdied the 12th from 17 feet, lipped out again from seven feet for birdie at the 13th and then made solid pars at the 14th and 15th.
It's still far too soon to dream but it's been calculated that win would catapult Harrington from 297th to around 80th in the world. A first PGA Tour win since the 2008 US PGA would also qualify him for the Masters, which he missed last year for the first time since 2013, and recoup his tour card.
As for Graeme McDowell, he was tied 81st on five over par after playing the first seven holes of his second round in one over par following a bogey six at the third.
While Steele led on eight under, Reed was two shots clear in the clubhouse of former world No 1 Luke Donald (69-67) on six under.