PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — One last putt. That’s all Rory McIlroy needed to make the cut, to make his countrymen ecstatic, to make himself proud.
He had come so far on this Friday even though he had little chance to make the cut (at 143) after Thursday’s 8-over-par 79. But there he was, a shot away, needing birdie at the last.
His approach to the awesome final hole at Royal Portrush had hit one of those mounds which are so much a part of links courses, and the ball turned away from the cup, leaving a long putt that he failed to make.
His 6-under 65 thrilled the home crowd who have watched him grow into one of the best players in the world. And it turned out a missed tap-in on Thursday was the difference.
“As much as I came here at the start of the week saying I wanted to do it for me, by the end of the round there today I was doing it just as much for them,” he said.
Tiger Woods couldn’t make the cut for anybody this time. Woods, 43, won the Masters this year, his 15th major, but has played little and not very well since.
His golf Friday was fine, a 1-under par 70. The problem was the 78 he shot in an opening round played late Thursday when the weather was not quite as kind as that the following morning.
Woods and Phil Mickelson have played in the same majors going back to the mid-90s and this was the first time both missed the cut.
The 49-year-old Mickelson, who opened with a 76, made double bogey on the par-5 second hole and never quite recovered, shooting 74 on Friday
On Thursday Woods' surgically repaired back was sore, and his game was sloppy. “There are too many guys playing well,” said a candid Woods, “and I’m just not one of them.”
An evening of recovery and a round that began with a birdie and closed with consecutive bogeys left him disappointed with the state of his game.
“It’s just a matter of being consistent,” he said. “That’s one of the hardest things to accept as an older athlete, that you’re not going to be as consistent as you were at 23.”