McIlroy made only one birdie in the rain at PGA National, and three bogeys on his last four holes led to a four-over-par 74. The cut officially will not be made until Saturday because of a rain delay of nearly four hours, though he knew the score.
He was seven-over 147, four shots below the cut line, when he took his short drive home.
“I don't like missing cuts,” McIlroy said. “You want to be playing on the weekend, and I'm not there. I'm not going to be playing this weekend, which is not nice.”
It was pleasant enough for Patrick Reed, who recovered from a double bogey early in his round to post another 67. He was the clubhouse leader at six-under 134. No one from the afternoon groups had enough light to finish.
The Honda Classic is considered the start of the buildup to the Masters, and McIlroy is getting more attention than anyone over the last two decades except for Tiger Woods. McIlroy is No. 1 in the world. He already has won this year. And a green jacket is all that's missing for him to become the sixth player with the career Grand Slam.
He's also not about to panic.
“I guess after coming off a three-week break, and then felt a little … I wouldn't say rusty, but just not quite on top of my game yesterday,” McIlroy said. “And then today, I felt like I was trying to get something going and couldn't. Coming off three weeks off and playing in conditions like these, it sort of shows you where you're game is at. Just got to regroup and put some work in and get ready for Miami next week.”
McIlroy is playing twice more before the Masters.
While the three bogeys at the end of the round cost him, what really hurt was a bogey on the par-5 18th as he made the turn. He felt his lie in the left rough was good enough for him to go for the green with a fairway metal. It wasn't, and the ball came up short and into the water, leading to bogey.
That's also where the big turnaround for Brooks Koepka occurred.
Koepka, who grew up in West Palm Beach, played with McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and opened with a 78. On the 18th, his approach hit a cart path and bounced over the sky box and onto the other side. It took a rules official some time to even figure out where he was. He received a free drop on the other side, 70 yards away, hit wedge to 20 feet and holed the putt.
That was the centerpiece of three straight birdies, and Koepka kept right on rolling to fulfill a mission. Swing coach Claude Harmon told him to try to do 10 shots better than a 78, and the 24-year-old told him, “I'll do better than that.” He shot 64 — a 14-shot improvement — to finish at two-over 142.
Johnson, a contender at Pebble Beach and Riviera the last two weeks, wasn't so fortunate. He three-putted from three feet on the seventh hole, shot 75 and finished at 12-over 152 to miss his second cut this year.
McIlroy missed the cut for the 29th time in 191 tournaments worldwide, and for the 11th time on the PGA Tour. His last weekend off was at the Irish Open last summer. Boy Wonder has a history of getting streaky with wins and missed cuts, though this would be appear to be more of an aberration.
“It was funny, it felt like the first tournament of the season when I've actually played two events,” McIlroy said, referring to his runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi and victory in Dubai. “I felt yesterday maybe a little tentative, just maybe trying to ease my way into the round a little bit and not really being that aggressive. That's why it's nice to have four rounds next week to try and put that right.”
Luke Donald had a 67 and was two shots behind. Russell Knox, who lost in a four-man playoff at PGA National last year, had a 68 and was at three-under 137.