Former US Open winner Michael Campbell rolled back the years and reigning champion Rory McIlroy rolled out the gate on the second day of the UBS Hong Kong Open, leaving the tournament high and dry without its marquee signing.
While Campbell grabbed the lead with a blistering six-under 64 to leave him on nine-under after two rounds, there were audible gasps of shock around the clubhouse leaderboard when it became clear that world No 1 McIlroy would be packing up his clubs and looking for an early flight out of town.
A bright start dimmed into oblivion for the Northern Irishman who had a double bogey on the last hole – after putting for a birdie – to finish the day with a two-over 72 and a two-round total of five-over. With the cut set at two over par, that was all she wrote.
“Obviously, this is not the week I wanted,” said McIlroy. “If I was completely fresh I wouldn’t have been making those mistakes out there. I got off to a good start and had a chance to go minus five today, and then it just started going the other way and I was on a slide.”
Once things started to go wrong, he said, there was simply no turning back.
“I misjudged the speed on a couple of greens, which were pretty slick, and my putting was not at its best,” said McIlroy. “I thought I would go for it on the last. I saw the projected cut and felt that, depending on the conditions later in the day and what the other guys did, I still had a chance.
“I wanted to hole it anyway, but I hit it a few feet by and still felt the second putt could be crucial, but I missed it. I just lost concentration.”
His demeanour stood in stark contrast to that of the 43-year-old Campbell, who was left one-shot clear of fellow 40-somethings Zhang Lianwei, 47, Miguel Angel Jimenez, 48, and Fredrick Andersson Hed, 40, who were all tied for second on eight-under par going into the weekend.
“The last couple of days, it’s been pretty solid from tee to green,” said Campbell who won the US Open in 2005. “You can’t buy confidence, you just have to earn it, and I think I’ve earned it over the last seven years since I won a tournament. I have been patient.”
Campbell revealed he almost quit the game after feeling mounting pressure from his family following years of constant travel and suffering a series of shoulder injuries. It all came to a head, he said, one night back in February 2008.
“I said okay tonight is when I decide whether I’m going to give up the game or whether I’m going to keep on playing,” he said. “I went to bed that night and I woke in the morning and there was something inside me that said, look, keep on going, you’ve got the talent. It never goes away. It just hides sometimes.”