McIlroy was never in contention posting scores of 74 and 73 for a disappointing five-over par tally which left him,, just three weeks out from the year’s first Major, ending his second round sharing 92nd place two shots shy of playing all four rounds in the $6.5m event on the Copperhead course at the Innisbrook Resort near Tampa on Florida’s west coast.
It is the second occasion in four New Year PGA Tour events McIlroy has missed a halfway cut with the other being also on debut at the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
McIlroy singled out his iron-play as causing concern as evident in managing to hit 18 of 36 greens in regulation over his two rounds.
“I’m just missing with my iron play,” he said. “I birdied 14 to get back to plus 4 and needed to birdie one of the last four to make the cut and then I hit an 8-iron that’s 25 yards right of the target.”
“So, I just really need to work on a few things just sort of syncing everything up again. Yeah, that’s the real big thing.”
And after finishing third and second in his opening two events in the Middle East, McIlroy bluntly admitted his game is nowhere near as sharp as it was in the UAE.
“Yes, my game feels far off from back then and it’s hard because when I play my weeks off or practice, it feels pretty good,” he said.
“When I get out on to the course it isn’t quite the same. Trying to match everything up.”
“There’s no concern because it’s early in the season. It’s a long year. I’ve shown signs of good play this year already and I just need to see a couple, you know, couple of good scores and I think that will maybe give me a little boost going forward.”
“So it’s nice that I’m playing again next week and have a chance to try and do that.”
And McIlroy was asked by this journalist if Bannon, who arrived into Florida last Sunday and was expected to return to Ireland this Sunday night, was intending to return home as planned or will Bannon remain in Florida ahead of McIlroy tackling next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in suburban Orlando.
McIroy responded: “Michael was going to be heading home after this event but no, he’s going to stay on for a little bit.
“Actually it’s his 60th birthday on Monday so he’s going to stay for that as we are planning a birthday party for him. He’s going to stay on and work on a few things. We had a bit of a debrief last night after the round and sort of feel like we’re getting somewhere and had a good chat and worked for about a half hour before going out there today.”
“I felt a little bit better. Another few days work before heading up to Orlando.”
And while McIlroy was heading across the Sunshine State to his new Bear’s Club abode and certain to be watching TV coverage of the event, with particular interest in Tiger Woods and whether or not he can capture what would be an 80th PGA Tour victory.
“I liked what I saw three months ago when I played a social round with Tiger, so yeah, like he’s playing great,” said McIlroy.
“He’s the Tiger of old in terms of the recoveries and then nearly breaks his hand off a tree and all that sort of stuff. His short game is incredible. He’s hitting the ball much better than he did the first couple of starts of the season.”
“I love to be here for the weekend to be in contention but I’ll be an interested observer watching TV over the weekend see how it unfolds.”