Rory McIlroy crashes out at Wentworth as fine form comes to a shuddering halt
Defending champion Rory McIlroy crashed out of the BMW PGA Championship on Friday, reverting to his "usual" performance at Wentworth by missing the cut for the third time in four years.
McIlroy was seeking his third win in four weeks, having followed his victory in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play with a third consecutive top-10 finish in the Players Championship and a seven-shot triumph at Quail Hollow on Sunday.
However, the world number one slumped to a second round of 78 in the European Tour's flagship event to finish five over par, 15 shots behind halfway leader Francesco Molinari.
The 26-year-old admitted his patience was wearing thin after throwing a club in frustration during an opening 71, a situation which never looked likely to improve on Friday.
Bogeys on the third and sixth were followed by a birdie on the eighth, before the wheels truly came off on the back nine with a bogey on the 10th and a double-bogey on the next, where a wild hook off the tee resulted in an unplayable lie and another hook into the crowd with his second attempt.
Further dropped shots on the 13th and 16th were followed by a birdie on the 17th, but a three-putt bogey on the last summed up McIlroy's day and the only good news was a welcome weekend off before his duties as tournament host in next week's Irish Open.
"I'm not going to read too much into it," McIlroy said after his worst score since also shooting 78 in the second round of the Scottish Open last July, which was one of a string of bad Friday performances ended in style during the following week's Open Championship.
"It was inevitable at some point that the run was going to come to a bit of an end. I'm sort of back to my usual at Wentworth. It wasn't great before I won last year and it hasn't been great after.
"Any time you're defending a title you want to come back and give it a valiant effort. This week wasn't really that.
"I'm not angry. A little disappointed I'm not going to be here for the weekend, but if there was any weekend to miss, coming off the back of three good weeks in the States.... I'm probably in need of a little bit of a rest.
"If anything good comes out of this, it's just that I get a couple of days over the weekend to refresh mentally."
McIlroy's early departure was not the only bad news for tournament organisers and incoming European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, who visited Wentworth on Friday as he prepares to succeed George O'Grady in July.
Two-time winner Luke Donald carded a second successive 70 to finish four under par, but suggested that the greens needed replacing for the second time in six years.
"I guess the only way to fix them is to redo them again," said Donald. "If there's one tournament you should expect them to be perfect, it's this one.
"It's not a question we haven't talked about over the years. It has happened a few times.
"When they redid the greens (in 2009) and I look at the success I had (finishing second in 2010 and winning in 2011 and 2012), I would certainly be a proponent of doing them again."
Former US Open champion Justin Rose agreed after a 72 left him one under, adding: "I just watched myself on TV knocking in a four-footer on 18 and it looked easy, but that was different from the running commentary in my head.
"They are bouncy and then it becomes a mental thing, you don't quite trust your reads.
"It's disappointing in the sense that the whole reason we changed this course was that if a player has a six-foot putt to win and hits a good putt, it should go in.
"We are back in the situation where that six-footer might not be true come Sunday afternoon."
Molinari, who has recorded three straight top-10 finishes at Wentworth and was joint second in the Spanish Open on Sunday, added a 69 to his opening 65 to finish 10 under par, one shot ahead of Korea's An Byeong-hun, who completed a flawless 64 shortly before 8pm.
''Obviously I'm delighted to have gone a little bit further under par and just need to keep doing the same," said Molinari, who recovered from two bogeys in his first three holes.
"I know how hard I've been working the last few months, so it's nice to see that it's paying off on the course.''
Argentina's Emiliano Grillo and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee were two off the lead on eight under, with Spanish Open winner James Morrison another shot back.
There was better news for Offaly's Shane Lowry who recorded a 67 and is best of the Irish on -3.
Damien McGrane (level), Peter Lawrie (level), Darren Clarke (+1) and Graeme McDowell (+1) made the cut