- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - After a day of clawing his way up the leaderboard, it took all of three holes to knock Rory McIlroy right off of it.

Welcome to the majors, kid.

McIlroy and the other two teen phenoms were knocked down to size Friday at the Masters. They may be hot stuff, winning tournaments when most kids their age are trying to figure out who to take to the prom. When it comes to the biggest tournaments, however, they still have a lot to learn.

“Just a couple of silly mistakes,” McIlroy said after dropping five strokes over the last three holes Friday at the Masters.

Hey, at least the 19-year-old made it, finishing on the cut line with a 1-over 45 and getting a reprieve from the rules committee after kicking the sand in disgust when he couldn’t get out of the bunker on the 18th hole. Ryo Ishikawa (150) and Danny Lee (155) are heading home.

“I’m not really happy about what happened,” Ishikawa said. “But at the same time, I’ll use this experience to advance myself in the future.”

Members of this kiddie brigade have done more before their 20th birthdays than some golfers do before they’re 40. McIlroy turned pro in 2007, earned his European card without going to Q-school, beat a strong field at Dubai and came to Augusta National ranked 17th in the world.

At 17, Ishikawa is already a two-time winner on the Japanese tour (he won his first event at 15, when he was still an amateur). He’s the youngest player to crack the top 100 in the world rankings and has been nicknamed “The Bashful Prince” in Japan. Not too bashful, though, considering one of his head covers is a Cabbage Patch Kid-like doll of himself, complete with spiky hair, sunglasses and visor.

Then there’s Lee. All he’s done is knock Tiger Woods out as the youngest U.S. Amateur champion, and become the European Tour’s youngest winner with his victory at the Johnnie Walker Classic in February. The 18-year-old will make his professional debut in two weeks in New Orleans.

“It’s great for golf,” McIlroy said earlier this week. “Hopefully, it inspires people that are not much younger than us to take up golf and try and one day emulate what we have done.”

Well, not everything.

At 4-under through 15 holes, McIlroy was on the leaderboard Friday and his game didn’t appear to have any glaring weaknesses. He boomed his shots off the tee, yet had impressive accuracy (he hit all but two fairways). His short game was just as good, time and again putting shots within 5 feet of the pin.

But he unraveled with three holes to go.

He four-putted for a double bogey on 16, particularly stunning considering he didn’t have a single three-putt in the entire first round. He blew a chance to get a stroke back on 17, missing a 15-footer for birdie.

Then things really got ugly.

His second shot landed in the bunker on the right side, and McIlroy left it there with his third shot. He kicked at the sand in disgust _ a no-no according to the rules, which forbid players from testing the surface before hitting any shots in a hazard. That could have disqualified him. But after a review, the rules committee decided no violation had occurred.

He blasted out to 30 feet on his fourth shot, then three-putted for a triple bogey.

McIlroy acted his age when he blew past reporters without answering questions, telling a Masters official, “No, I don’t feel like it right now.” But he’d calmed down enough to talk once he’d reached the locker room.

“You can’t do that. You just can’t do that,” McIlroy said, referring to his sand shots on 18.

At least he gets a do-over this weekend.

Lee had actually gotten back to even-par for the tournament with an eagle on No. 8 and a birdie on the ninth. But the back nine proved disastrous.

Needing to make a 10-footer for par on the 10th, Lee putted.

And putted again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And yet again.

Six putts in all, giving him a quintuple bogey. After a par on the 11th, he went double bogey, bogey, double bogey. Another bogey on 18 left him at 9-over for the day, and 11 over for the tournament.

“That six-putt, I just couldn’t get it from my mind,” Lee said. “That really hurt my game today.”

Lee took some time to gather himself after his round, too, standing alongside his caddie, mother and soon-to-be agents at the clubhouse.

“That’s golf. I have to deal with this stuff,” he said. “I’m still 18, so I’ve got a lot of things to learn. Hopefully I’ll learn.”

Ishikawa was flirting with the cutline through 15 holes. But he made back-to-back double-bogeys on 16 and 17 to bring an early end to his first Masters appearance.

“I was nervous today,” he said. “If I can just build on the experiences, I think I will be OK.”

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