World golf order appears to rewind as McIlroy and Donald exit early, while Tiger ties for lead at Olympic.
By STEVE EUBANKSFS South
What a difference a couple of months make.
It was only April, during the early blossoms of spring, when you couldn't have a golf conversation without bringing up Rory McIlroy. He'd already joined Tiger, Phil, Jack and Arnie as a golfer who only needed one name. And after ascending to the top spot in the World Rankings with four wins around the globe after a record-setting victory in last-year's U.S. Open, Rory was already being heralded as the next Tiger, or perhaps even the next Jack.
Now at The Olympic Club, he is lumped in with Toro Taniguchi and Shane Bertsch, just another guy who missed the cut at the Open.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to play," McIlroy said, a statement meant more as a conversation ender than a starter. Of course he didn't want to shoot 77-73. He didn't want to three-putt the final hole for bogey, just as he didn't want to play his last four holes in three over par yesterday.
But, to his credit, McIlroy hung around long enough to expound further on his woes, saying, "It hasn't been the greatest run over the last sort of six weeks or whatever it is. But as I said, I still see enough good stuff in the rounds that it does give me hope it's not very far away…(Olympic) is just such a demanding golf course and just punishes the slightest shot that's off line, or that's maybe not the right distance, or whatever."
With that McIlroy emptied his locker and headed back to Ireland where he will get a few rounds of links golf in before his next appearance in the Irish Open.
The only good thing he could take away from San Francisco was the fact that he wasn't the highest-ranked player in the world to miss the cut – quite a feat since he entered the week ranked No.2.
That is because the fellow at No.1, Luke Donald, who played alongside McIlroy for the first two days, had an ever worse week. Donald, who ascended to No.1 because of his consistency, had 14 bogeys in 36 holes, offset by only three birdies.
"I think I missed nine putts inside 10 feet and just couldn't get the feel for the greens, the reads, the speed," Donald said. "And if I had putted a little bit better yesterday I could have ground out a score today and maybe been somewhere decently placed for the weekend. But it wasn't to be."
Also packing up and exiting early were the two men who thrilled golf fans at the Masters, dueling their way around an incredible final round that included a double-eagle and a two-hole playoff.
Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson were once again tied after two rounds, but this time it was at nine-over, one more than they needed to play the weekend.
Watson came close, birdieing two of the last four holes to flirt with the cutline. But his approach shot at 18 found the bunker. It was all over from there. A good up-and-down par was like scoring a last-second touchdown to lose by 14 instead of 21: a moral victory, but nothing more.
"That golf course is too hard for me," Watson said.
He even added a humorous hashtag to one of his late twitter posts: #golfishard
Indeed it is, even for the top-ranked players in the world, with one rather noteworthy exception. Before Donald and McIlroy and Lee Westwood (who made the cut at plus-5) played musical chairs at the top of the World Rankings, one guy sat atop that perch for a good long reign.
That guy, Tiger Woods, is tied for the lead and looking better than ever.
So much for the spring flings. Golf, it appears, is back to its old self again.