Rory McIlroy was left reflecting on a missed cut at the US Open for the second consecutive year on Friday after once again struggling to get to grips with the Erin Hills layout.
The world number two, who earlier in the week suggested players unable to find the fairways should "pack their bags", is now contemplating an early exit following a second-round 71.
The one-under-par total was a substantial improvement on Thursday's six-over-par 78, but with the cut projected at one-over-par, it was too little, too late for the popular Northern Irishman.
McIlroy, however, who had come into the tournament from an injury layoff after a niggling rib problem, said he was encouraged by his performance.
"I'm optimistic with where my game is," he said. "Hopefully I've got a lot of the bad stuff out of my system yesterday and some parts today. It's just a matter of getting competitive rounds under my belt.
"I've got a busy summer, so I'm excited to play a lot of golf. I feel like that's going to help me to get back into contention and hopefully try to win some of these things."
McIlroy, who had stumbled through a lacklustre opening round on Thursday, again found the going tough after teeing off on the 10th hole.
He missed a five-footer for birdie on his first and then squandered another chance on 11, where he missed a 12-footer.
His problems deepened at the par-four 12th, when his second shot rolled off the back of the green. A chip went sailing past the pin, leaving a long putt to save par which was duly missed.
He recovered to drain a 13-foot birdie putt on the par-three 13th, but thereafter was unable to build any momentum over the remainder of the opening nine holes.
His inward nine began with a further bogey on the long par-five first, which was followed by another bogey on the second which left him at eight over.
A further bogey on the third left him nine over.
With little to play for McIlroy then strung together his best sequence of holes in the tournament, carding four birdies and two pars.
But the late birdie spree was not enough to lift McIlroy to safety as the exit door loomed.
McIlroy meanwhile said a new putter being used for the tournament was not the problem.
"I didn't think it was the putter, it was the guy on the end of it," he said.
"It's all good holing the putts on the practice green, but it's a different kettle of fish when you get out on the course and have to read slope, read downhill, uphill into the green, side green."