Previous winning form at the U.S. Open counted for nothing as Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk both staggered toward the exit door from Merion Golf Club after struggling badly in Friday's second round.
Though the cut will have to be made on Saturday with 68 players still out on the course when play was suspended for the day in fading light, the two former champions will miss out by a wide margin.
The top 60 players and ties will advance to the third round, with the cutline projected to fall at seven over in the year's second major. Northern Irishman McDowell was at 13 over, having carded a seven-over 77, with Furyk at 16 over, after a 79.
McDowell had been among the pre-tournament favourites after winning twice this year, once apiece on the U.S. Tour and the European circuit, so was bitterly disappointed with his premature departure.
"Pretty far over par," the 33-year-old told reporters after losing his way early on in the second round with three double-bogeys in his first eight holes on a difficult day for scoring at Merion.
"It's that hard, it's that difficult, it's that long. It's not the way I wanted to play the last couple of days, but this place is very hard.
"I'm temporarily dejected. This game is not about your bad weeks, of course, it's about the major Championships, and you're trying to prepare yourself as well as you can coming into weeks like this."
McDowell laboured on the tilting fairways, sloping greens and tough pin positions on Merion's iconic East Course, which was also firming up after being softened by heavy rain over the past week.
"I struggled the last couple of days, but that's golf and that's the U.S. Open," said the Northern Irishman, who clinched the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and tied for second at the Olympic Club last year.
"This golf course will do that to you, but it will be a short-term dejection. I'll shake it off and I'll get ready for the (British) Open championship in a few weeks time. That's my next target."
Furyk, a Pennsylvania native, described his week at Merion as one of the worst U.S. Open experiences of his career after making 18 previous starts in his national championship.
"It's definitely towards the bottom," said the 43-year-old, who landed his only major title in the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. "I'm not sure I've thrown up two worse scores. I don't think I've played worse for 36 holes.
"But I'll be honest with you, Oakmont, Winged Foot and the Olympic Club were far more disappointing," he added, referring to his ties for second at the U.S. Open in 2006 and 2007 and share of fourth place last year.
"To get so close and I felt like I got kicked in the stomach for all three of those, to lose by a shot or two when I could have won."
Furyk, a 16-times winner on the PGA Tour, conceded that it had also been a galling experience to fare so badly in a U.S. Open held in his home state.
"I wanted to play well, but obviously sometimes you press, you try a little too hard," the straight-shooting American said after carding just one birdie along with five bogeys, one double and a triple.
"There were a lot of things that went astray in my game. I thought myself around the golf course poorly, I putted poorly, I drove the ball poorly, just things you can't do at a U.S. Open."
Other leading players who were certain to miss the U.S. Open cut at Merion included former Masters champions Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Jose Maria Olazabal.