Rory McIlroy flew home to Northern Ireland last night and may not be seen on a golf course for over a month.
The world No 11 missed the cut after a 77 yesterday but revealed he was so disillusioned with his game – he also missed the cut in Houston a week ago – that he may not reappear until the PGA Championship at Wentworth in late May.
Building on the success of last year when he won for the first time and finished second to Lee Westwood on the European Tour Order of Merit, McIlroy decided to join the US PGA Tour this season. But if his break is as long as he suggested, it would mean missing his next scheduled start at Quail Hollow in three weeks and then the Players Championship, the biggest event on the circuit outside the majors.
In his rapid ascent to the upper echelons of the game McIlroy had not previously missed the cut as a professional in a major championship and at the USPGA Championship last August finished in a tie for third place.
While Westwood and Ian Poulter were leading the assault to take a Green Jacket back across the pond, McIlroy was far from alone among the battalion of European players at the top of the world rankings who have struggled over the last two days. Padraig Harrington, one of the favourites for the title, also bowed out with a 75 as did Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Germany's Martin Kaymer.
McIlroy, dressed sombrely in grey and black, was lacking the joie de vivre which characterised his success last year. A back injury flared up over the weekend in Dubai in February and has since required two scans and an hour and a half's physiotherapy prior to each round. Six pars was a solid start but a double-bogey at the seventh, via the trees and two bunkers, was a significant setback.
After a bogey at the par-five eighth a second successive six following a sloppy third shot with a wedge, there was still plenty of fight but also an air of inevitability. "I am just not myself at the moment," McIlroy admitted. "I don't know what is going on. This is the sort of course where if you are slightly off, your mistakes look even worse.
"I need to take a break and come back with a refreshed attitude. I am getting frustrated very easily and getting down on myself. I am supposed to play at Quail Hollow but I might need a bit more time to let this injury clear up and to clear my head.
"I'm not really worried about the back long-term, but it just needs to clear up. It is partly down to that and partly to the fact that I'm not enjoying it at the moment. It's not due to the expectations on me, a lot of that expectation is from myself. Maybe I need to sit down and tell myself that I'm only 20 years old and things are going quite well.
"But I expect a lot from myself and it has been a disappointing few months." Time, and patience, should be his friends now.Reuse content