Rory McIlroy failed to get the golfing 29th birthday gift he sought as he slipped well out of contention to blow out the candles on a third Wells Fargo Championship victory cake.
McIlroy had wished for a hopeful gift-wrapped second round 62 but what he received was an unwanted horror five-over par 76 for a two-over-par tally on the Quail Hollow course in suburban Charlotte.
McIlroy’s score is his equal highest in the event he’s won twice before and matching the 76 he shot on day two of the 2104 event on route to a then share of eighth place.
The dismal effort left McIlroy just a shot inside the cut line and trailing well behind little-known American Paul Malnati who added a 68 to his first round 67 and head the $US 7.2m field by a shot at seven-under par.
Former World No. 1 Jason Day, and with a round capped by holing a bunker shot at the par-5 10th for eagle, posted a 65 to be tied in second place with American Aaron Wise (68) at six-under par.
England’s Paul Casey, and winner this year of the Valspar Championship, birdied his 14th and 15th holes in a round of 68 to be sharing fourth place at five-under par.
McIlroy had bogeyed his first and fifth holes before a first birdie in sending a booming 376-yard drive down the ninth and then brilliantly landing his second to just four-feet.
But exacerbating McIlroy’s birthday blues was clipping a tree with his drive at the par-4 11th and with his ball landing in a fairway bunker from where he missed the green some 33-yards left of the hole.
The World No. 7 played a ‘flop’ shot that rolled off the green and from where he took three shots to putt out for a double-bogey 6’.
McIlroy got one shot back at the next but bogeys followed at 14 and 16 that dropped him to four-over.
He then slumped to five-over in taking three shots to get down from the front of the green at the par-3 17th ahead of a superb second shot into the uphill par-4 18th and two-putting from 22-feet for his par.
McIlroy shares two-over with Tiger Woods who made it six of seven halfway cuts this season despite adding a two-over par 73 to his opening 71 and head to the weekend at two-over.
Woods only birdie was at his last hole and with the all-important 13-foot 2-inch putt ensuring the former long-time World No. 1 plays all four days.
“Whether it was for the cut or not, I was just committed to that putt on the last wasn’t going to break”, said Woods.
“I figured it was just outside left and after Patrick (Reed) and Brooks (Koepka) each missed it left and that’s all I was committed to and that was understanding that putt wasn’t going to break.
“I trusted myself and hit it and made it.
“So, I’m on a hot streak now, I made that putt at the last (smiling)”.
Also, at two-over is Graeme McDowell and unlike his fellow U.S. Open winning colleague, McDowell managed four birdies including three from his 10th to 14th holes.
But sticking out like a sore thumb on ‘G Mac’s’ score card was a third hole double-bogey.
McDowell missed the green right and then made of a mess of his third that ended-up in front of the green and 35-feet from the flag from where he took three shots to get down.
And making it three Irish at two-over was Shane Lowry in carding a one-under par 70 that included three birdies and one less bogey.
Seamus Power brilliantly capped his round holing a 40-foot eagle chip shot from the back left of the green at the par-5 10th.
But a bogey at the last when he leaked his second shot into a small creek down the left of the 18th fairway saw the West Waterford golfer sign for a level par 71.
Fortunately for Power the cut-off mark dropped to three-over par and ensuring the Irishman contests all four rounds.