Some of world’s elite fail to make cut at BMW PGA Championship
Molinari leads as McIlroy and McDowell bow out
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks down the 11th hole with Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland (R) during the second round of the BMW PGA Championship on the West Course at Wentworth on Friday. Photograph: Getty Images
The casualty list was made up of some of the world’s elite, high-rollers who have bedazzled on stellar golfing stages. Not here, though; not now!
Yesterday, as players were doused with cloudbursts that tested the veracity of their waterproofs and the swirling wind complicated decision-making in club selection, a number of notables – among them Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter – were left by the wayside as the BMW PGA Championship motored along.
That other longer-in-the-tooth practitioners like Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Colin Montgomerie, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal all inveigled a way to negotiate both the course and the conditions to survive into the weekend only served to add to the head-scratching. How to make sense of it all?
Francesco Molinari – with a superb 68 for a 36-holes total of 138, six-under-par - reached the midpoint atop the pile with a one shot lead over a quartet of players. Yet, such is the nature of this course that anyone who made the cut, which came in at two-over, will, with the prospect of improved weather, move forward with intent: an eight-shot blanket covering the field makes it anyone’s race in the quest for the €791,660 top prize in the European Tour’s flagship tournament. And yet the intrigue focused on those who didn’t make it, especially Messrs McIlroy and McDowell. In spite of conquering courses all over the globe, this little piece of golfing terrain in Surrey, almost within smelling distance of the jet fuel from Heathrow airport, has consistently outfoxed them.
Yesterday was no different, as the two Macs signed for matching 75s for 149, five-over, that brought with it early departures and the call of warmer climes with an eye on the upcoming US Open at Merion.
Looking for positives
Given the manner in which he has twice bounced back from missed cuts on tour this season to win in his following events – claiming the Heritage Classic after missing the weekend at the Masters, then winning the World Matchplay after failing to survive at the Players – McDowell, looking for some positives, quipped that the missed cut could result in a win in his next outing, which just happens to be the US Open.
“It’s not a happy hunting ground and that’s probably one of the most brutal rounds of golf, conditions-wise, that I’ve played in a few years. Really, it was tough . . . I played some okay golf but struggle to get it going around the golf course historically and this week was no different unfortunately,” said McDowell, who plans on returning to Portrush with his fiancée Kristin for a few days before returning stateside.
McDowell added: “You know, I’ll take missed cut, win, missed cut any day of the week as far as a run of three events. Of course I’d like to play more consistently, but when you’re making your good weeks count, that’s very important.
“I’m very disappointed to miss the cut but this is a golf course that’s a work-in-progress for me. We’ll be back!”
McIlroy’s plans were thrown up in the air after missing the cut in the BMW PGA for a second straight year. Among the options being considered were remain on at Wentworth for a couple of days of practice, or head to Paris for the French Open in tennis or to Monaco for the Grand Prix.
Art of winning
Whatever route he takes over the weekend, it would seem that the next leg of the journey – on to Ohio next week for the Memorial tournament, his final outing before the US Open – will be the most necessary one as McIlroy rediscovers the art of winning a tournament.
In yesterday’s second round, McIlroy hit only four fairways and found only eight greens-in-regulation. “It was just a grind and I didn’t play particularly well,” admitted the 24-year-old Ulsterman, adding: “I was missing a lot of greens and couldn’t really give myself many chances to make any shots back . . . I’m definitely looking forward to getting back into some golf (at the Memorial) where I’m not playing in four layers (of clothing). That’s not really an excuse. I just didn’t play well.”
McIlroy’s chances of rescuing anything from his round disappeared on the 17th, where he suffered a double bogey after a run of seven successive pars. The birdie on the 18th was little more than a consolation. There was little solace to either McDowell or McIlroy that a number of their Ryder Cup colleagues suffered a similar fate of missed cuts. One of their number, though, proved up to the task as Francesco Molinari moved into a position of strength to claim a first tour win since his Spanish Open win of last season.
Always one of the most accurate drivers on tour, Molinari’s traditional Achilles heel has been with the putter but he has started to work with former tour player Jamie Spence.
“It’s been a process in the last three weeks of getting more comfortable and getting a bit of confidence back, to start hitting more good shots. Hopefully it keeps going that way,” said Molinari.