ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday, a woeful start to the season for the world’s top two golfers.
Woods missed it after he was penalized two shots for wrongly taking a free drop, while top-ranked McIlroy was frustrated trying to adjust to his new Nike clubs, even though he used his old Titleist putter in the second round. Both finished with 3-over 75s.
“When you don’t hit fairways on this golf course, you can’t score,” McIlroy said.
Justin Rose played solid, mistake-free golf. Away from the large galleries, the Englishman shot a 69 for a 136 total and a one-shot lead at the halfway point over Jamie Donaldson (70) of Wales , Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (67) of Spain and Thorbjorn Olesen (69) of Denmark .
Woods and McIlroy were expected to contend for the lead but often looked like weekend golfers. Their struggles captivated the crowds and their departure means it is the first time the world’s top two players missed a cut in the same tournament since McIlroy and Luke Donald at the 2012 U.S. Open. The last time in a regular tournament came in 2005 by Woods and Vijay Singh at Disney World.
“I didn’t hit it particularly well. I putted great but just didn’t hit it very good. I was struggling with that,” Woods said. “I have some work to do, and next week I’m playing at Torrey (in San Diego), and obviously it will be different weather there, so going to go back and get ready.”
Woods thought he was safe in finishing his second round at 73. But he was advised by the European Tour chief referee Andy McFee of the penalty, giving him a 75 and 3-over total of 147. The cut for the top 60 plus ties was 2 over.
McFee said he warned Woods on the 11th tee of the penalty, which was a result of his taking a free drop when his ball was embedded in sand. It’s not allowed.
“I called Martin (Kaymer) over to verify the ball was embedded. We both agreed it was embedded and evidently it was in sand,” Woods said of the infraction that happened when his drive on 5 landed in a bed of vines. “Andy ruled I broke an infraction, consequently got a two-shot penalty. Andy feels the way he feels about it and I broke the rules.”
Kaymer said he thought the ball was embedded and was surprised to hear of the ruling.
“I didn’t know about it and he obviously didn’t know about it, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it. It’s an unfortunate thing,” Kaymer said. “Obviously he was fighting back a lot, and he was 3 or 4 over par, and trying to make the cut. He was playing very well coming in. He was making nice putts in the end.”
McFee said Woods didn’t challenge him on the ruling. It came to light when a spectator alerted the European Tour to the infraction, he said. After the drop, a reporter heard some spectators questioning whether the drop was appropriate.
“An embedded ball relief is through the green but in ground other than sand,” McFee said. “I talked to him when he came off the 11th tee because I couldn’t be sure about a two-stroke penalty until we got into the recording area.”
Woods said it was frustrating to bow out of a tournament in this way, especially after he recovered from four bogeys on his first five holes — the fifth subsequently becoming a triple. He birdied five of the last 11 holes including three in a row in the back nine.
“It’s tough because I didn’t get off to a very good start. I fought and got it back,” Woods said. “I was right there and felt if I could post even par I had the chance to go into the weekend only eight back. Evidently it wasn’t enough.”
McIlroy posted a second straight 75 for a 6-over total of 150. Even a switch to his old putter for the second round didn’t help. He putted poorly, flubbed several chips and drove erratically.
McIlroy carded three bogeys on his first seven holes to all but eliminate himself from the weekend. He had a string of birdies at the turn — including a chip-in on 9 — but wasted that with a bogey on 10 and another on 14.
“I didn’t putt well again, so they were the two areas of the game; nothing was really on today,” he said. “One of those things. I’ve got a few weeks off to work at it and try and get my game in decent shape for the U.S.”
“It’s very disappointing. You really want to get off to a nice start at the start of the season, but I’ve got to realize that it is only the start of the season and there’s a lot of golf left. I said to the guys yesterday on the way back, as long as I feel like my game is in good shape heading into Augusta, that’s all I’m worried about.”
Rose started slowly but finished with a flurry. He had three of his four birdies on the back nine including on his 18th when his approach shot came within a few feet of the pin. Second at the Dubai World Championship last month, Rose said he was confident.
“There’s a difference in how I feel about my game and how I trust my game, absolutely. I believe that any tournament I tee up in, I can win,” Rose said.
Robert Rock, the defending champion from England, withdrew before the round because of illness.