From the sublime to the ridiculous as Rory McIlroy laments disastrous 18th at Honda Classic
Rory McIlroy followed the sublime with the ridiculous as a closing double-bogey seven left him six shots off the pace at the Honda Classic.
The world number 10 was almost flawless from tee to green for 15 holes at a firm and breezy PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens but trudged away to sign for a frustrating two-over 72.
After going from a fairway bunker to the edge of the hazard right of the treacherous 16th, he chased a magical 38-yard pitch up the green from among the rocks and rushes to less than three feet to miraculously save par.
Just four off the lead after getting through the Bear Trap unscathed, a closing eagle would have halved the deficit with the pace-setters, Swede Alex Noren and former US Open champion Webb Simpson, who shot four-under 66s to lead by one from Morgan Hoffmann, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Mackenzie Hughes.
Facing 268 yards to the hole into the breeze at the 556-yard 18th, his attempted cut sailed high into the lake on the right, and he then compounded the error, overshooting the green from 135 yards before pitching 12 feet past and dribbling his bogey putt well wide.
There was also trouble for his playing partners Pádraig Harrington and Adam Scott on a day of attrition at the Champion Course.
The Australian was two-under par with four holes to play but dropped five shots at the Bear Trap run from the 15th to the 17th in a 73 as Harrington found water with his approach to the 16th before three-putting for a triple bogey seven en route to a six-over 76.
The back nine also chewed up Seamus Power who turned in eight over par before stopping the bleeding somewhat to finish with a seven over round.
McIlroy was impressive from tee to green, picking up early birdies at the third and fourth before missed greens led to bogeys at the tough sixth and par-three seventh.
He only had to hole a five-footer for par at the 12th in an otherwise excellent display until that costly late mistake sent him tumbling from the top 20 to within one stroke of the cut line.
"It was a pretty tough day," McIlroy said. "Wind was up. Greens got a little sort of crusty and firm. I felt like I was hanging on pretty well. I was doing everything I needed to do, just sort of grinding out pars.
"I was sort of was pushing for a birdie at the last to try and shoot under par. Just tried to hold a 3-wood up into the wind and over did it a little bit. A disappointing finish. It was the right shot. I just didn't execute it the right way.
"Big picture, I'm so happy to be playing, and this is my third week in a row and don't feel any ill effects from health-wise or mentally or anything like that."
It was a better day for Graeme McDowell, who birdied his last two holes for a level par 70 to share 20th with the 14-time major winner Tiger Woods and European No 1 Tommy Fleetwood.
Shane Lowry worked hard for a one-over 71 to share 34th, knowing he must win if he's to break into the world's top 50 before Monday's cut-off and qualify for next week's WGC-Mexico Championship
Woods described his level par 70 as "easily" the best of the seven rounds he's played since returning to the PGA Tour last month.
"I played hard today," said the American (42), who led early after birdies at the 11th and 13th before following a bogey at the 16th with a double bogey seven at the third and a birdie at the fourth.
"I'm starting to really get a feel for scoring in tournaments, and today was a day that I'm very proud of because I missed the ball in the correct spots."
Noren, who lost to Jason Day in a Monday playoff for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last month, dropped just one stroke in an impressive, four-under 66 and a share of the lead.
At the European Tour's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, The Island's Gavin Moynihan got no practice round and just four hours sleep after his last-minute call-up, carding a five-over 77 to Darren Clarke's 76 to lie second last in the 138-strong field.
"I couldn't believe I got in," said Moynihan, who was undone by a quadruple bogey eight after driving into a bush at the second, his 11th hole, at Doha Golf Club.
"I was the 12th reserve on Saturday afternoon, so I got in after midnight last night and only got four hours sleep."
England's Aaron Rai (22) closed with an eagle three for a 65 and a share of the lead with France's Grégory Havret and compatriot Eddie Pepperell on seven-under-par.
They're one clear of Oliver Fisher, former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari, Spain's Alvaro Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider.
- Qatar Masters, live, Sky Sports, 7.30
- The Honda Classic, live, Sky Sports, 8.0