At least the bad news was golf related. A disappointing week for the European Tour’s flagship tournament was compounded by the exit at the halfway stage of the event’s biggest names. The retreat from the BMW PGA Championship was led by world No 2 Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut for the second year in succession, defending champion Luke Donald, last week’s World Match Play champion Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, who is in the middle of a shocking run. Were it not for a birdie at the last Justin Rose would have followed Europe’s Ryder Cup royalty out of the door.
Don’t worry, Lee Westwood is only three off the lead on three under par and a young lad with a wicked name, Eddie Pepperell, announced himself with a rip-roaring finish to lead the English challenge on four under.
McIlroy, starting at two-over par shortly after lunch, was engaged in grim battle against the worst of what were appalling conditions clad in a beanie hat and wet suit. His record in a tempest is not great. You will recall the 80 he shot at St Andrews in the Open of 2010 and the moan at the wet and windy conditions that often come with links golf in July after falling away at Royal St George’s a year later.
Yesterday he managed only one par in the outward nine, setting three birdies against five bogeys. Needing to claim two shots against par over the closing two par-fives to make the cut, McIlroy went for it at 17 and carded a seven for his troubles. The birdie to close brought an ironic smile and a score of five over.
“When I play in these conditions, I sort of try todo too much with the ball sometimes and I start to hit some bad shots and those bad shots obviously cost me,” he said. “It’s definitely not the weather that you expect at the end of May in London. But it was the same for everyone out there; everyone found it cold and miserable and some guys just deal with it better than others.”
McIlroy was at a loss what to do across the weekend. Not a problem for Poulter, who shot a second consecutive 76 to close on eight over par. The Champions League final and Monaco Grand Prix are not the worst consolation prizes for a beaten golfer, though Poulter would prefer to be battling the Wentworth winter on the leaderboard instead of taking up sponsor offers to attend blue-chip alternatives at sports high table.
This was a third missed cut on the spin at a major stroke play event. First the Masters, then the Players and now the BMW PGA Championship. Crash, bang, wallop. After winning a second world golf championship event in China last November, Poulter stepped on the accelerator over the winter, improving fitness and strength and retooling throughout the bag with upgraded clubs. The result has been a slide down the world rankings from 12 to 17.
“The fire’s not there right now,” Poulter said. “I’ve got to re engage or throw some wood in the oven and see what happens. I need to see if we can get it to ignite again. Obviously playing like that is no fun. There’s no panic for me. But I do need to find the fire and get out there and play.
“Playing like that really p***** you off, so I need to get a grip. The funny thing is, I can’t work any harder. You take six weeks off, you work really hard; you put new equipment in your bag and you work even harder on your fitness and that’s what happened. So do you go, ‘right, sod it all?’ No, just keep going full steam ahead. So I’m going to keep doing the same things, play through and I’ll be fine.”
There was plenty of stiff upper lip from Donald, too. The game is not far off, he insists. A tweak here, a tweak there and he will be ready to roll at the Jack Nicklaus-sponsored Memorial tournament next week, his last stop before the US Open at Merion.
“I’m not too worried,” Donald said. “It’s never nice to miss a cut. I’ll be back. I think failure is a much bigger motivator for me than success. The bottom line is I didn’t play very well, nine over through 21 holes is pretty terrible golf really. I don’t think it’s a million miles away though. Sometimes these things are a lot closer than you think.”
PGA Championship: Leader board
(Great Britain & Ireland unless stated)
6 under Francesco Molinari (It).
5 under Alejandro Canizares (Sp); George Coetzee (SA); Mark Foster; Marc Warren.
4 under Eddie Pepperell; Matteo Manassero (It).
3 under Ernie Els (SA); Gregory Havret (Fr); Simon Khan; Shane Lowry; Lee Westwood.
1 under Sergio Garcia (Sp).
Par Darren Clarke, Martin Kaymer (Ger).
1 over Justin Rose
5+ Rory McIlroy; Graeme McDowell
8 over Ian Poulter
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