VIRGINIA WATER, England — Rory McIlroy revived memories of his spectacular Masters meltdown by missing the cut at the BMW PGA Championship after a 7-over 79 on Friday, leaving his grip on the No. 1 ranking under serious threat from Luke Donald.
The U.S. Open champion failed to make the weekend at back-to-back tournaments for the first time in more than two years after imploding at a windy Wentworth, hitting seven bogeys and two double bogeys in a disastrous second round.
At 9 over par, McIlroy is a massive 21 strokes behind James Morrison, who showed the Northern Irishman the way to play the difficult West Course at the European Tour’s flagship event by shooting a flawless 64 to establish a four-shot lead.
The second-ranked Donald, who shot a second straight 68, is tied for second place with first-round co-leader David Drysdale (70) and can replace McIlroy as No. 1 by finishing eighth on his own or higher on Sunday.
Donald, the reigning champion, will have loftier ambitions than that but McIlroy can only sit and watch.
“It’s a week I’d like to forget,” said McIlroy, who tossed a club to the ground in despair on his way to a first-round 74 on Thursday.
McIlroy blamed a lack of competitive rounds since his 40th-place finish at the Masters at the start of April.
“I might have taken my eye off the ball a little bit,” he said. “Maybe just haven’t practiced as hard as I might have been. I’ll have to think long and hard about it tonight.”
McIlroy dropped four shots in five holes around the turn on Thursday and his game disintegrated there again 24 hours on.
This time he endured a disastrous spell of seven dropped shots in six holes from No. 8 to No. 13. He looked sullen and his shoulders dropped as he walked along the 13th fairway contemplating a second straight missed cut following on from The Players Championship in Florida a fortnight ago.
Memories flooded back of his rounds of 80 on the final day of the 2011 Masters and on the second day of the 2010 British Open.
“It’s something about the middle of this golf course I can’t get to grips with,” said McIlroy, who knew the game was up when he bogeyed the par-3 No. 10 for the second straight day.
He wasn’t the only leading player to struggle at Wentworth. The cut settled at 1 over and third-ranked Lee Westwood was on that mark after a 75.
Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell (73 for 3 over), 2009 winner Paul Casey (76 for 10 over) and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington (79 for 11 over) all missed the cut.
Donald, who has twice lost his No. 1 ranking to McIlroy this year, delivered a dominant putting performance to lie in a strong position for the weekend.
“I’m feeling strong on the greens,” Donald said after making five birdies and an eagle in glorious morning conditions. “Every time I’ve had opportunities, I’m seeing the line and got the speed down and making some good putts.”
Morrison, a former England cricketer at youth-team level, has already picked up twice the number of shots Donald did to win the event last year.
Four birdies in five holes around the turn that gave McIlroy so much trouble left Morrison clear in front and he holed a putt to make eagle at the par-5 last, where he chipped in for a 3 on Thursday, to put even more distance on his rivals.
“Definitely one of the best rounds I’ve ever had and probably one of the easiest, funnily enough,” said Morrison, who lives a few miles away from Wentworth and was cheered on by his friends and relatives. “It felt easy. I wish golf was like that every day.”
Morrison’s only previous tournament win came at the Madeira Islands Open in 2010. A second victory and a check for 600,000 pounds ($950,000) would be a memorable way to sign off for a couple of weeks for a planned break ahead of the birth of his first child next month.
Peter Lawrie of Ireland (71), who shared the overnight lead with Drysdale on 6 under, and Alvaro Quiros of Spain (70) are in the hunt five shots back. Tenth-ranked Justin Rose shot a 71 and is in a group of eight players on 6 under.