Sport Golf

Thursday 29 September 2016

Mountain to climb for McIlroy

Huge task ahead for World No 1 after grim 80 leaves him struggling to make cut - but Harrington hits heights

Published 29/05/2015 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy plays reacts to a missed putt on the 12th during day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle on Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Rory McIlroy plays reacts to a missed putt on the 12th during day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle on Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

Rory McIlroy left himself a mountain to climb to avoid the cut in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, but Padraig Harrington soared to new heights with a super 67 for joint leadership at Royal County Down.

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Harrington revealed that he was not aware of McIlroy's deeply disappointing nine-over-par 80 before he went out to play in the afternoon.

And in the harsh world of professional golf, it would not have mattered, as once the action starts - it's every man for himself.

Harrington had enough to deal with on a hugely testing course with strong winds and squally rain bursts keeping the scores high.

He was one over par after 10 holes when he decided on an aggressive approach.

The reward was five birdies in a six-hole stretch and joint leadership overnight with Germany's Maximilian Kieffer.

"Now I'm in a position where if I keep my head on and play okay for the next three days I should have a chance on Sunday, and obviously if I play well the next three days, other people are going to have to come and catch me," said Harrington.

McIlroy refused to make excuses for his 80.

"I don't think I was trying too hard. If anything, it was almost the other way," he said.

"It's my fifth week in a row, and I'm not saying I felt flat out there, but just trying to muster something up to get myself going and get some sort of momentum was difficult.

"You know what to expect when you come to an Irish Open, and I've said for the last couple of years I want to try and embrace it, and relish the fact that you're here, and everyone wants to see you do well."

Michael Hoey and Simon Thornton were the closest Irish players to Harrington. They each shot a level-par 71. Thornton is attached to Royal County Down and has huge local knowledge which he put to good use.

Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley all filed one-over-par 72s.

Irish Independent

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