McIlroy rues punishing course
After the bitter disappointment of yet another missed cut, Rory McIlroy faces a huge test of character in the coming weeks.
A year ago the young Northern Irishman was leaving the rest for dead as he headed towards US Open glory. On Friday night in San Francisco he was simply leaving.
Rounds of 77 and 73 meant McIlroy exited on 10 over par, having taken 19 more strokes than he did on the first two days in Washington.
That spoke volumes about the relative difficulty of the Olympic Club and Congressional, where he went on to win by eight with a record 16-under total.
But, having crashed out early as well from Sawgrass, Wentworth and Muirfield Village, the next month takes on huge importance.
"I felt I really turned a corner last week (he was seventh in Memphis and shared the lead until a closing double bogey), but this course is so punishing," said the world number two.
"Obviously I'm disappointed. It wasn't the way I wanted to play, but, to be honest, overall I don't feel like I played that badly.
"You really have to be so precise out there. We're just not used to playing this sort of course week-in, week-out.
"You have to adapt and adjust and I wasn't able to do that very well."
Asked how humbling the past month and a bit has been McIlroy replied: "It has been. You realise you've just got to keep working hard - it doesn't come easy to you all the time.
"But I still see enough good stuff and that gives me hope that it's not very far away."
After a week off he returns in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush, where he set an amazing course record of 61 in 2005 when just 16.
A fortnight after that comes The Open at Royal Lytham - and remember last year he said after finishing 25th at Sandwich: "I'm not a fan of golf tournaments where the outcome is predicted so much by the weather.
"I just play better and my game is more suited to calm conditions. I'm looking forward to getting back to America."
World number Luke Donald was another to crash out on Friday night and he was one worse than McIlroy on 11 over.
At least he had the announcement of an MBE in The Queen's Birthday Honours to remind him of the good times.
"I am truly honoured to be awarded an MBE by Her Majesty - particularly in her Jubilee year," Donald said.
"Both 2011 and 2012 have been very significant years for me, both personally and professionally, and I am touched that my accomplishments have been recognised in this way."
Earlier this week he joked that he was unsure The Queen would be watching the US Open, "but if she is hopefully I'm one of her favourites".
His search for a first major goes on, however.