Friday, 19 March 2010
The Masters - Round Two  (Getty Images)
The Masters - Round Two (Getty Images)

Just when it seemed he was coping with all that windy Augusta National could throw at him Rory McIlroy's Masters debut went horribly wrong on Friday.

Bad enough that the 19 year old from Northern Ireland dropped five shots in two holes, four-putting the short 16th and taking a triple bogey seven on the last.

But then he was the subject of a rules investigation that extended into the night and might lead to his disqualification.

Bunkered in two on the last he left his attempted recovery in the sand and it looked from television coverage that he had kicked the sand before playing again.

If he had it would breach the rules and because he had signed his scorecard the punishment would be the harshest of all for not adding the penalty.

McIlroy had appeared shell-shocked by his finish and, when asked to speak to waiting reporters, he said: "I don't feel like it right now."

That was before the incident in the bunker came to light.

The fastest rising star of European golf had climbed from 39th place to sixth with a superb run that included a ten-foot eagle putt on the 13th, but that was not how he would remember the day sadly.

On the 16th his long-range birdie try up the ridge ran eight feet past and by taking three more from there he tumbled off the leaderboard.

When the seven followed he was right down on the cut mark of one over - suddenly ten adrift of Americans Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry, who led by one from Argentina's Angel Cabrera.

At the time it left triple-chasing Padraig Harrington as the leading European after an eagle on the 13th put the Open and US PGA champion three under and joint tenth.

However, he was then also involved in a rules discussion when his ball was blown by the wind on the 15th green.

Because he had addressed it previously a one-shot penalty was imposed and instead of putting for birdie the putt he then sank was for par.

Harrington then bogeyed the 17th and when his birdie putt at the last horseshoed out he was round in 73 for two under alongside Tiger Woods, who had bogeyed the 18th for the second day running and signed for a 72.

"It started to blow, so I stood off it, but a gust came and blew it three feet further away.

"It's strange. It happened to me before when the referee ruled it was not a penalty, but I grew up thinking it was, so it wasn't hard to take and I was pleased that I collected my thoughts and knocked the putt in."

Spaniard Sergio Garcia leads the European contingent going into the concluding 36 holes as a result. A 67 in the last group of the day, completed with a birdie, put the world number three joint sixth.

Swede Henrik Stenson (70) and world number two Phil Mickelson (68) were tied for 11th on three under.

Two under and joint 19th with Harrington and Woods were Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and 51 year old Sandy Lyle, Scotland's 1988 champion having five successive birdies from the 13th in his 70.

In the gusty conditions the course showed far more teeth than it had on the opening day, but Campbell was still able to add a two under par 70 to his dramatic opening 65.

The 34-year-old Texan even reached 11 under after 10 holes, then bogeyed three of the next seven before closing with a 30-foot birdie putt.

Ryder Cup teammate Perry did supremely well to keep a bogey off his card and with birdies on the first, second, 12th, 15th and then the last from five feet he was round in 67.

Cabrera had a second successive 68, while in fourth place on six under was 2004 Open champion Todd Hamilton - a long-awaited return to form for a player now ranked 373rd in the world.

Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Houston Open winner Paul Casey and Luke Donald all made the cut with a shot to spare on level par and Ross Fisher survived on the limit after a 76, but among those crashing out were Ernie Els, Jose Maria Olazabal and Fred Couples - all by one on two over.

Ian Woosnam, whose mother died earlier in the week, bowed out on five over, while fellow former winners Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson showed their age sadly with 83s and Greg Norman's return after seven years ended early two after he dropped four shots in the last six holes for a 78.

Oliver Wilson bowed out as well on four over.

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