DUBLIN, Ohio – Staggered by a quadruple-bogey on the third hole of Thursday’s opener at the Memorial Touranment, Rory McIlroy never got off the ropes.
Instead, he tossed in a couple of sloppy double-bogeys in a second-round 79 that sent him packing early from a third consective tournament. Posting scores and making decisions more suited to a journeyman than a guy who just a few weeks ago was ranked No. 1 in the world, McIlroy hung his head at the scoring hut and got a pat on the back from his swing coach, Michael Bannon.
Perhaps more favorable, he also got words of encouragement from his playing competitor, the current No. 1, Luke Donald.
“Rory isn’t that far away,” Donald insisted.
But McIlroy had just tossed down a startlingly sloppy 79 to miss a third straight cut for the first time since 2008? Donald shrugged.
“He made a few errors, careless errors. I’m sure when Rory puts a few solid rounds together he’ll be fine.”
Starting the day 1 under, McIlroy went out in 2-over 38, then came apart at the par-5 11th. He drove it in the fairway, but laid up into the bank of a creek that runs the length of the hole. In hindsight, McIlroy said he should have “chipped out, but it was a bit of bad judgement.” His escape try hit the bank and caromed back into the water, leading to a double. He then bogeyed the par-4 13th and doubled the par-4 14th.
“It seems everytime I go out there I make a big number. They’re killing me,” said McIlroy, who will play next week in Memphis. He also is trying to remain positive.
“I don’t feel like the scores are reflecting the way I’m hitting the ball.”
McIlroy was hardly the only marquee name shaking his head.
Webb Simpson backed up a 78 with a 75 and missed a second straight cut for the first time since 2010. Before that, Simpson had made the cut in each of his first 11 tournaments, placing top 10 four times.
Another sore spot? Gary Woodland. He birdied the par-3 12th to get to 5 over and seemingly had time to scrape together two more birdies to make the cut. Instead, Woodland had five bogeys and a double over those holes to shoot 79.
Other big names to miss the cut included Bill Haas, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, and Keegan Bradley.
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SILENT, PLEASE: Phil Mickelson’s departure? Due diligence by tournament security? Or was it, as Bubba Watson suggested, the miserable weather?
“No one wanted to take their hands out of their pockets,” Watson offered.
Surely, it was cold and damp, but just as certain was this: Watson and Rickie Fowler had a much quieter time in Round 2 of the Memorial Tournament than they had the day before when it was generally agreed that the use of camera phones was out of control.
Of course, Mickelson was also with them Thursday, though Watson supported the lefthander’s stated reason for his withdrawal, that he was mentally and physically tired.
“It wasn’t the cell phones,” Watson said.
Regardless of Mickelson’s reasons for withdrawing after an opening 79, the lefthander was clearly agitated by the number of cameras he heard clicking while he was on the tees. Sources said Mickelson made a point of addressing the issue with tour officials before leaving Muirfield Village Golf Club, and perhaps that had something to do with the added attention the problem got Friday.
Watson offered an estimation that marshals and security officials took away “50 cell phones,” but the Masters champ wasn’t suggesting that this was a cure to the problem. In fact, “there’s nothing you can do about it; it’s like slow play, how do you fix slow play?”
Watson said he supports the policy to allow fans to bring cell phones to the course. “It’s a great reason, for emergencies,” he said. “But people take advantage of the situation.”
Even before he won the green jacket, Watson was a major draw and he said he’s been dealing with the problem all year. It becomes exponentially more tiresome when he’s paired with fellow headliners such as Mickelson and Fowler. “I swing it goofy, so everyone wants to see the monkey hit the ball far,” Watson said.
But even as officials walked along and confiscated phones being used for photos, Watson emphasized the rule shouldn’t be amended. “Don’t know how you can reconsider it,” he said. “A lot of people speed, some people get caught. You can enforce it all you want, but not everyone’s going to get caught. There’s no way to fix these problems.”
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REST & RELAXATION: Asked about Mickelson citing fatigue for the early exit, Dustin Johnson had a little fun. “You’d think with a vacation he’d be rested up, but travel wears you out.”
Mickelson played three weeks in a row, then went to Italy and France with his wife, Amy, before teeing it up here at the Memorial. The lefthander shot 79 Thursday, then conceded he had probably overdone things and said he was withdrawing.
Turning serious, Johnson totally supported Mickelson’s decision, especially with the U.S. Open two weeks away.
“You’ve got to rest, obviously. I can definitely understand that he’s mentally drained. Everyone knows what they have to do. He’s not going to get any better out here.”
As for his own health, Johnson is encouraged. Having been out since mid-March with an injured back, the bomber said, “it’s getting there; the more rounds I get, the more comfortable I am out there.”
Putting together a pair of 71s, Johnson is 2 under and in contention. Good news, though he insists he’s more focused on his health.
“The body’s good. I’m 100 percent,” he said.
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ON THE BAG: Spencer Levin playing well here and possibly using that to charge into his hometown area, San Francisco, for the U.S. Open seems to be a delightful story. Especially since his caddie, Mike Hicks, was on the bag in 1998 when Payne Stewart nearly won the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club.
Yet that’s not Hicks working this week for Levin? What’s with that?
Turns out, not much. Hicks has the week off for his son’s high school graduation and is expected back on the bag when Levin plays next.
Veteran caddie Jon Turcott, who is good friends with Hicks and Levin, came out of the bullpen to work the bag this week.
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QUALIFYING: Two years ago, Brian Davis told his secretary to book him into the U.S. Open qualifier closest to the Memorial Tournament. Not knowing the local geography, she settled on Springfield, Ohio.
Not bad, given that it’s approximately just 75 miles away.
The only thing is, the next town over from the Memorial is Columbus, which annually is the most popular site for PGA Tour players.
But Davis seized the opportunity, drove the 90 minutes, and won the qualifier to get into the field at Pebble Beach. One would think it would have started a love affair with that qualifying site and in a way it has; the only thing is, Davis was unable to play last year because his father became ill, and he’ll miss this year because he feels he needs a break.
“I’m absolutely fatigued,” said Davis after shooting 72 to make the cut at 1-over 145. “I withdrew last week (at the Crowne Plaza Invitational) because I didn’t feel good and I’ve got a lot of things going on off the course.”
The Memorial marks Davis’ sixth consecutive tournament and he’s played eight of the last 10.
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ODD GAME: Billy Hurley III missed the cut for the 11th time in 15 starts, so clearly his rookie season continues to be a grind.
But give the former Navy standout this – he deserves high praise for grit. Having shot 45 on Muirfield Village’s front nine en route to an 84 Thursday, Hurley played those same nine in a bogey-free 33 Friday.
Asked how he improved by a dozen shots over those nine holes, Hurley smiled. “I finally hit a couple of greens and played some good golf,” he said, but the truth is, it’s further proof that golf is an odd game.
“Everything went bad (Thursday). I hit a cart path and the ball went out-of-bounds. Balls went through the green and I had awful lies.”
Overall, Hurley has 13 shots better, backing up that 84 with a 71.
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PRIORITIZING SAFETY: Watson confirmed that he and his wife and son were going to move to Isleworth outside of Orlando.
They’ve spent a lot of time there in recent months and they like what the area offers. “You don’t have to leave the gates and can have all your meals inside the gates,” he said.
Watson said he’ll sell his house in Scottsdale, Ariz., and he also said an incident this week at the Memorial Tournament emphasized why safety is an issue. Driving with his wife, Angie, back from a fundraiser Tuesday night, Watson claims he was followed for more than a half-hour.
While nothing came of the situation, it upset both the player and his wife, although it’s not known whether Watson thinks that living within a gated community alleviates all the concerns that life throws at celebrities once they get outside.
Then again, it’s Bubba. Maybe he loves the Tavistock Cup that much.