McIlroy and Woods are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. They're the tour's rainmakers. They drove this tournament's marketing, brought out fans and, for differing reasons, delivered nothing as hoped.
Woods' problem was golf. He's tied for 32nd entering Sunday's final round. It happens. The fact it happens with some consistency now remains Woods' central question moving forward.
But McIlroy's sudden, surprising and utterly stupefying decision to quit in mid-round while struggling on Friday, then later cite a toothache, remains the talk of golf and the larger sports world.
You're either a pro or you're not. You don't just quit in mid-competition of anything. You tough it out. You finish a bad day. Even if you're a wonderful guy, even if people like you, you don't storm off the course like McIlroy because shots aren't going your way.
"You never know who came to watch you play that day," golfer David Duval tweeted. "How far they drove or from where they flew. That's part of why I never quit."
If McIlroy's day ended with him quitting, that would be bad enough. But after telling a few reporters nothing was physically wrong with him, he released a statement saying, "a sore wisdom tooth" made him, "unable to concentrate."
So McIlroy started as a quitter and ended as either a liar or a lightweight. Either one turns a bad issue into an uglier one.
Let's accept McIlroy's tooth-fairy tale at face value. Even then he did his sport a disfavor. Hockey's Duncan Keith lost seven teeth in the second period of a playoff game and returned for the third period.
The Heat's Dwyane Wade won the NBA title with a knee that needed an operation after the season. Do we need to talk about football players and pain? Even in the genteel world of golf, Tiger Woods won a U.S. Open on a leg with a torn ligament and a double stress fracture.
And the No. 1 player didn't finish a round because of a sore tooth?
No one likes to be judged on their worst day. But with great rewards come great responsibility. McIlroy would be smart to release another statement apologizing for his behavior. His next move will define him even more.
As things stand, the first questions when he appears at Doral this week for the World Golf Championships are simple ones: How's the tooth? Was it extracted? Can you grit it out if it bothers you again?
The tooth, of course, isn't McIlroy's prime issue. His game is. He was seven over after eight holes, then hit into the water on the ninth, when he pulled the plug.
"He's not even playing close to good golf," NBC's Johnny Miller said on Saturday's telecast. "I'm pulling for him. He's good for golf. But walking off the course. ... I know the guys playing with him said, 'Don't walk off the course.' "
Woods knows about personal foibles, but his Honda issue was golf. He's not near the player he once was. But he's already won once this year, won three times in 19 starts last year and can be one of the Masters favorites if he straightens his game.
"I thought realistically 5- or 6-under part would be a good score, and I thought if I post that I would be within six or seven shots of the lead going into tomorrow at worst," Woods said.
Guthrie and Thompson lead the Honda. Fresh names are always fun for a sport.
But the Honda drew great interest because Woods and McIlroy entered. One struggled in a manner that happens. One quit in a way pros never should.