Rory McIrony, anybody? After two highly publicized outings in which he lost leads in such far-flung locales as Augusta, Ga. and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, McIlroy repaired to the comfort of Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., where he closed like Silky Sullivan to win last year's event after just making the cut on the number.
Even that strategy didn't work this time at this event, now sponsored by Wells Fargo. McIlroy shot 147 (75-72) to miss the cut by three strokes. Instead, Padraig Harrington made a mild late move to earn a share of ninth place alongside Phil Mickelson and five others.
McIlroy dug himself an early hole with five bogeys on Thursday. More of the same appeared to be on tap on Friday, with bogeys at the first and third holes, but he reeled off four birdies over the next eight frames. Bogeys at the two finishing holes spelled an early exit, however.
"I know better than most people that you just have to be around on the weekend to be able to make something happen," McIlroy said. "I was just trying to get in there, trying to get to the weekend, but unfortunately I just wasn't able to do that.
"Gave myself a lot of opportunities, just wasn't able to take them. I'm disappointed to come back here after all that happened last year and wanted to be here for the weekend. But that's golf, and I'll go home and I'll do some hard practice over the next 10 days and try and get ready for the next event [the Volvo World Match Championship in Spain]."
As for Harrington, he had a 9-stroke gap to overcome as he teed off on Sunday, although McIlroy proved that to be surmountable last year. Unfortunately, Harrington (who earlier this year was disqualified from a tournament after he failed to call a penalty stroke on himself after his ball appeared to move half a dimple on the putting green) also had to deal with a spectator calling him on his ball placement.
After teeing off at the 13th tee on Sunday, a spectator remarked that Harrington appeared to have teed his ball ahead of the markers. The issue was later discussed before he and Mickelson (his playing partner) signed their scorecards, with a return trip to 13 by the pair and their caddies, along with a look at a television monitor to discern any irregularity. Harrington described the markers as having appeared to be "askew" but that he placed his ball in accordance with the right marker, which he faced as he teed off. After all that scrutiny, anyone who had any say in the matter was content to let things stand.
"Yeah, it looks close on TV, no doubt about it," an exasperated Harrington said. "But it isn't conclusive. For once, I'm not going to be a martyr and take it. No, it's just not conclusive, so there's no penalty."
That sideshow overshadowed a particularly fine performance in which Harrington took six strokes off par over the first 14 holes, only to finish with bogeys at 17 and 18 (he took par at the par-3 13th). Yet, the field wasn't coming back enough to let either Harrington or Mickelson raid the trophy stand. Harrington shot 278 (69-72-69-68) in this precursor to The Player's Championship at Sawgrass. The low number of 273 belonged to Lucas Glover and Jonathan Byrd, with Glover prevailing in the playoff.