RORY McIlroy scraped in by the skin of his teeth but Open champion Phil Mickelson headed a long list of big names to miss the cut in the 78th Masters.
It was only the second time in 22 appearances that Mickelson, a three-times winner, had failed to make the final two rounds in the season’s opening major.
The fact it’s happened this year is a second blow to the event in terms of TV ratings after world No 1 Tiger Woods missed out for the first time since 1995 after undergoing back surgery.
“I didn’t play great. I didn’t play bad,” reported Mickelson after a 73 left him on five-over - one too many. “I just had one bad hole there at 12. I keep making these triples and they’re tough to overcome.”
After a similarly long wait, two-times Open champion Ernie Els also missed out by the narrowest of margins and so, too, did fellow major winners Webb Simpson and Charl Schwartzel.
Exactly the same fate befell Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Victor Dubuisson, while others to make an early exit included last year’s runner-up Angel Cabrera as well as Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner.
McIlroy, fancied at the start to claim his first Green Jacket, made it on the mark but only after having to hole a four-foot par putt at the last in an error-strewn 77.
He ran up a double-bogey 5 after finding tree trouble behind the fourth green then saw his approach at the 13th hit off a sprinkler head and fly into the azaleas.
“It was very frustrating,” groaned McIlroy afterwards. “I just really couldn’t get anything to go my way. I had a couple of really bad breaks. I got a really massive wind switch on four and then hitting the sprinkler on 13 to go up into the azaleas.”
Also surviving with nothing to spare was Australian Jason Day, second three years ago then third behind compatriot Adam Scott 12 months ago.
Another Aussie, Marc Leishman, who finished fourth then, was also on that amazing list of casualties despite opening with three birdies to lead at one point in the second round.
A former Tennant Cup winner, he saw the wheels completely fall off thereafter as he signed for a 79 and a five-over total - a reminder how this place probably more than anywhere else can kick you players in the private parts.
“It can jump up and grab you at any time,” admitted Leishman. “I learned that last year and learned it this year as well.”