Nightmare five-putt sees Rory McIlroy tumble down the leaderboard at Pebble Beach
It's supposed to be Rory McIlroy's 'Annus Mirabilis' after a three-month sabbatical and off-season "recalibration" designed to set him up for a crack at Masters glory and the career Grand Slam.
But it was more a case of 'Annua Horribilis' in the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as his quest for early-season confidence suffered a massive setback on the tricky poa annua greens at Monterey Peninsula's Shore Course.
Not only did he five-putt his 14th hole, but he also three-putted four times (three of them in the last four holes) and signed for a three-over 74 that leaves him tied for 88th on one-under and two shots outside the projected cut.
Paul McGinley warned earlier this week that the putting surfaces on the West Coast might prove a challenge for McIlroy after back to back top-three finishes in the Middle East.
"The first two weeks, okay he didn't win, but he chipped and putted particularly well," McGinley said. "But the next two weeks will tell us a lot, going to poa annua greens where it is a test of nerve and guile to putt well, as well as skill."
But McIlroy (28) didn't putt well yesterday and was schooled by four-time Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner Phil Mickelson (47) - winless for nearly five years - who had 24 putts to McIlroy's 37.
Total putts explain little, but the left-hander made six birdies in a six-under 65 to finish the day just three shots behind world No 1 Dustin Johnson, who shot a seven-under 64 at the same venue to lead by two with Beau Hossler on 12-under par.
McIlroy was just one-under to Mickelson's five-under when they came to their 14th hole, the 349-yard fifth.
It's out of reach for most, but McIlroy's booming drive left him an 80 footer for an eagle two from just off the front edge. He gave it a chance, burning the hole but leaving himself a seven-footer for birdie coming back.
But after knocking that three feet past, he carelessly bashed his par-putt six feet past again, missed that too and eventually holed out for a double-bogey six.
It was little wonder he stared at the ground dejectedly for a few moments and to no-one's surprise, three-putted the par-five sixth for par and then also three-putted the seventh and the eighth for bogeys, the latter error coming from inside 10 feet.
The smile that came when he opened with a birdie from three feet at the 10th disappeared quickly. He bogeyed the par-five 12th and three-putted the 15th for another bogey before making a two-putt birdie at the par-five 16th.
When he spun his approach to four feet to set up a birdie at the first, he was all smiles again.
But the wheels came off after that unofficial five-putt and he must now regroup at Pebble Beach just to make the top 60 and ties who make the cut tonight.
Like McIlroy, Graeme McDowell also had a nightmare day, going out in level on the back nine at Spyglass Hill before running up two bogeys and three double bogeys in a homeward 44 for an eight-over 80.
That leaves him tied for 149th on seven-over with Pádraig Harrington a shot further back after a 76 at Pebble Beach where Shane Lowry also found it tough to get the ball in the hole.
The Offaly man sits on the projected three-under cut mark after a one-over 73 while Paul Dunne is back on level par after a one-over 72 at Monterey Peninsula.
Seamus Power is also in danger of missing the cut after a level par 72 at Pebble Beach left him 110th on one-over.
On the European Tour, Gavin Moynihan shot 77 and missed the level par cut by six shots in the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth at Lake Karrinyup Country Club where Lee Westwood shot 70 to Brett Rumford's 72 to share the lead on eight under par.
Team Ireland's Neil O'Briain shot a second successive 70 to share 18th place on four-under par in the Sunshine Tour's Eye of Africa PGA Championship, seven strokes behind South Africa's Combrinck Smit.
In China, Cork teaching professional Brian O'Donovan is tied four fourth at halfway in the race for 15 cards at the PGA Tour China's Qualifying Tournament at Mission Hills Haikou after a second round 73, two shots behind American Joseph Winslow and England's Wiliam Harrold.
Meanwhile, Castle's Alex Gleeson followed up his fifth-place finish in the South American Amateur last month with a share of 13th in the South Africa Stoke Play near Pretoria.
The Dubliner closed with a 70 to finish on 15-under par at Pecanwood Golf and Country Estate where Sweden's Oliver Gillberg shot 68 to win the title by a shot from South Africa's Matt Saulez on 27-under 261 - the lowest 72-hole total in the event's 49-year history.
Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty shot a super 66 and Tramore's Robin Dawson a 73 to share 26th on 11-under 277 with Kilkenny's Mark Power tied 31st on 278 after a 69 and Naas Jonathan Yates 55th on 286 after a 73.
- AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Sky Sports Golf (7.0), Main Event (8.0)