VIRGINIA WATER, England — Superman is looking more like Clark Kent at the moment.
Rory McIlroy has now missed the cut in his last two events, the Players Championship and the BMW PGA Championship. They just happen to be the venues for the flagship tournaments on the European Tour and PGA Tour. First he flew home early from TPC Sawgrass two weeks ago. Now he's long gone from Wentworth.
Two days ago, McIlroy was bold enough to tell everyone he believed he was the best player in the world. But from the eighth to the 15th holes in the second round, his scorecard became an ugly read for anyone but an 18-handicapper. Draw the curtains and take a peak: double bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, par, double bogey. That's nine dropped shots in eight holes.
His seven-over-par 79 left him stranded at a total of nine over par. It is his worst score since he shot 80 in that infamous Sunday meltdown at the 2011 Masters. It's his worse score in Europe since he shot 80 in the second round of the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews, and his worst score as a pro in a regular tournament since an 83 in the first round of the 2007 South African Open.
McIlroy trudged around the back nine laughing in the face of adversity. It was gallows humor. Inside, he said later, he was hurting. His trademark Tigger bounce was nowhere to be seen. He was Eeyore, with shoulders slumped and head bowed. Defeated.
He looked shell-shocked as he walked off the final green to sympathetic applause after an ironic fist pump as his birdie putt to break 80 dropped into the hole. He sounded shell-shocked, too, when he stopped to sift through the wreckage.
What went wrong?
What's he going to work on?
McIlroy simply does not like Wentworth or Sawgrass, but, to his credit, he said he would play both events again next year because they are so prestigious.
McIlroy will fly back across the pond to play at the Memorial Tournament next week in Columbus, Ohio, and he will then take a week off before flying to San Francisco to defend his U.S. Open title at the Olympic Club. If he plays this badly in California, he may volunteer to be the Bogeyman of Alcatraz. He has much work to do.
"I may have taken my eye off the ball," he said. “Maybe not practicing as hard as I might have."
Record crowds have trooped through the gates this week — almost 45,000 in two days. The tens of thousands who were looking forward to watching the World No. 1 strut his stuff over the West Course this weekend will be sorely disappointed. Still, they'll have the championship leader, the World No. 236, instead.
If James Morrison continues to star on the main stage, he'll open the doors for all the major gigs this summer. The 27-year-old Englishman lit his own fire at Wentworth with a chart-topping, crowd-pleasing eight-under-par 64 that took him to 12 under par. That's 21 shots better than McIlroy over 36 holes.
The chasing pack includes the ominous names of Luke Donald (eight under), Alvaro Quiros (seven under) and Justin Rose (six under). Donald will take over from McIlroy at No. 1 if he finishes in the top eight. He is currently tied for second.
Morrison, who grew up just a few miles from Wentworth, is one of those chosen ones for whom everything comes easy. He played cricket for England's Under 16s team and field hockey at county level. He didn't even pick up a golf club until he was 16. He then got from an 18 handicap to scratch in 10 months and turned pro at 21 with a handicap of plus 4. He has been on tour for just three years and has already won, albeit at the rather low-key Madeira Islands Open.
"This is a different level," Morrison said. "I expect a lot but when you've got the likes of Donald and Rose and company behind you, and the golf course is easier this year, there are more birdie chances. But if I shoot 80 tomorrow or 65, I'll take what I can from it."
Perhaps understandably, he sounded like he was expecting an 80 rather than a 65.
To give an idea of just how talented Morrison is, Donald said it took him five years to get to scratch compared to 10 months for Morrison.
"It's a great opportunity for him. For any aspiring players, you want to get in these situations and deal with it," Donald said. "I'm sure he'll have some nerves."
A compliment — and a little pressure piled on for good measure.
"I'll try to chase him down I guess."