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Friday, June 15, 2012
Rory McIlroy makes early exit at U.S. Open


SAN FRANCISCO -- As a 17-year-old amateur named Beau Hossler continued to play like he's a tour veteran, Rory McIlroy packed up his belongings in the Olympic Club locker room. It's the worst kind of packing. Your equipment sponsors have loaded your locker with hats, gloves, balls and shirts that are there to get you through the week. Now you have to either pack them or unload them on a clubhouse attendant.

McIlroy has been doing a lot of this kind of packing of late. This will be his fourth missed cut in his past five tournaments. For goodness' sakes, he's the No. 2 player in the world, the reigning U.S. Open champion, the heir apparent to Tiger Woods and the boyfriend of a pretty Danish tennis player. This isn't supposed to happen. Nothing like this ever happened to Tiger.

But Olympic doesn't care about your fame. It will make a fool out of anyone who dares come to it without precision and heart. It's not clear if the 23-year-old Northern Irishman had either trait this week. He had just three birdies in a week where he hit only 53 percent of his fairways.

"It hasn't been the greatest run over the last sort of six weeks or whatever it is; but as I said, I still see enough good stuff in the rounds that it does give me hope that it's not very far away," McIlroy said after the round.

As he tried to gather the implications of the moment on Friday afternoon, McIlroy was asked if the toughness of Olympic was the USGA's retribution for his dismantling of Congressional last year.

"It's been set up tough, but it still gives you opportunities," he said. "I had looks at birdies out there. It's just the course is so tough with the reverse cambers and you hit it in the middle of the fairway sometimes it doesn't hold and you're in the rough and when you hit it in the rough it makes it difficult."

McIlroy will try to regroup before he heads across the pond to prepare for the British Open with a stop later this month at the Irish Open.

A year that looked so bright just a couple of months ago now struggles to find some semblance of its promise.

Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at evans.espn@gmail.com.