ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship after being penalized two shots for wrongly thinking he had a free drop after his ball became entangled in vines on Friday.
Woods joined top-ranked Rory McIlroy in making an early exit. McIlroy struggled with his new Nike clubs and had a second straight 75. It's the first time the world's top two players missed a cut in the same tournament since McIlroy and Luke Donald at the 2012 U.S. Open.
Woods thought he was safe in finishing his second round at 1-over 73. But he was advised by the European Tour chief referee Andy McFee of the penalty, giving him a 75 and 3-over total of 147. The cut for the top 65 plus ties is projected at 2 over.
McFee said he warned Woods on the 11th tee of the penalty, which was a result of his taking a free drop when his ball was embedded in sand. It's not allowed.
"I called Martin (Kaymer) over to verify the ball was embedded. We both agreed it was embedded and evidently it was in sand," Woods said of the infraction that happened when his drive on 5 landed in a bed of vines. "Andy ruled I broke an infraction, consequently got a two-shot penalty. Andy feels the way he feels about it and I broke the rules."
McFee said the rule was clear and that Woods never challenged him on it after the round. It came to light when a spectator alerted the European Tour to the infraction, he said.
"An embedded ball relief is through the green but in ground other than sand," McFee said. "I talked to him when he came off the 11th tee because I couldn't be sure about a two-stroke penalty until we got into the recording area. I don't know the exact spot where he was. I know the area. I would need Tiger to come out and have a look, and he was happy it was in sand."
Woods said it was frustrating to bow out of a tournament in this way, especially after he recovered from four bogeys on his first five holes — the fifth subsequently becoming a triple. He birdied five of the last 11 holes including three in a row in the back nine.
"It's tough because I didn't get off to a very good start," Woods said. "I fought and got it back. I was right there and felt it if I could post even par, I had the chance to go into the weekend only eight back. Evidently, it wasn't enough."
McIlroy finished with a 6-over 150 total. His switch to an old putter for the second round didn't help. He didn't show signs of someone who won the European and U.S. PGA money titles in 2012, putting poorly, flubbing several chips and hitting erratic drives.
McIlroy carded three bogeys on his first seven holes to all but eliminate himself from the weekend. He had a string of birdies at the turn — including a chip-in on 9 — but wasted that with a bogey on 10 and another on 14.