Tuesday 17 October 2017

Rory seeks way out of wilderness

Rory McIlroy reacts to a shot from the rough at Muirfield yesterday
Rory McIlroy reacts to a shot from the rough at Muirfield yesterday
Rory McIlroy looks dejected during day two of the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield

Karl MacGinty

IT was the final humiliation for a sportsman who has heard deafening roars of endorsement for record-breaking feats at the Majors as he strutted to the top of the world.

Rory McIlroy received warm applause from the galleries at Muirfield yesterday as he took each faltering step on the way to his worst performance at golf's Grand Slam championships.

And he knew exactly what it meant. "Yeah, it was a bit like a sympathy vote out there," said the 24-year-old after signing for the second-round 75 which sent him tumbling to his first missed cut at the British Open on 12-over-par.

"It was nice," he added in a noble attempt to be polite. "Obviously, they were willing me to play well, but I'm disappointed to be going home for the weekend."

Perhaps he should also be relieved.

McIlroy is such a pale shadow of the player who electrified global golf as he leapt to the pinnacle of his sport last winter, he simply isn't up to the challenge of one of the hardest, hottest and fastest British Opens in decades.

Thursday's first-round 79, after which the Holywood native admitted he's felt "like I'm walking around out there (on the golf course) and I'm unconscious," offered damning evidence of just how far McIlroy has fallen.

With just two rounds of tournament golf played in just under five weeks between the US and British Opens, McIlroy took a hammering as savage as any rusty fighter could expect in a world title fight.

The punishment continued yesterday as McIlroy stumbled blindly to the three bogeys and an embarrassing double-bogey that left him five-over for his first seven holes.

At this point, McIlroy decided to pull the driver from his bag and start throwing haymakers... playing his final 11-holes in one-under at least offered some consolation.

Asked how he might find his way out of the wilderness, McIlroy said: "I think playing a bit more golf will definitely help. It's more of a scoring issue."

"I don't want to say I wasn't sharp coming in here, but after a couple of weeks off, when you get on that first tee on Thursday, it feels a little different to when you've been practicing for two weeks.

"I've got a nice run coming up, six tournaments in eight weeks," he added. "It will be good to get some more competitive play and see how that goes."

Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez (49) was 15 shots better than McIlroy over those first 36 holes as he took a one-stroke lead into the weekend, with Tiger Woods looming in the chasing group on two-under.

Darren Clarke, Open Champion in 2011, was Ireland's leading challenger on one-over par, while Graeme McDowell (+4), Padraig Harrington (+6) and Shane Lowry (+6) also made the cut.

"I know G-Mac and Darren are close enough to the lead, so they can challenge," said McIlroy. "Clarkie has had that Claret Jug before and it would be good to see him win it again this weekend."

8.10 Sterne, Katayama. 8.20 Petterson, Blixt. 8.30 Choi, Wood. 8.40 Ilonen, Hamilton. 8.50 Senior, Brown.

9.0 Ogilvy, Lawrie. 9.10 Ramsay, Jaidee. 9.20 Weekley, Wright. 9.30 Kim, Mullen. 9.45 Teater, Fernando-Castano. 9.55 Bradley, Couples.

10.05 Dufner, Cauley. 10.15 Van Pelt, Fitzpatrick. 10.25 Henley, Clark. 10.35 Els, DeLaet. 10.45 Lowry, Fisher. 10.55 Garcia, Harrington.

11.05 Lyle, Yang. 11.20 Tiley, Duke. 11.30 Coetzee, Bjorn. 11.40 Snedeker, Cink. 11.50 Kuchar, Jacobson.

12.0 Fraser, Willett. 12.10 Kaymer, De la Riva. 12.20 Bourdy, McDowell. 12.30 Gallacher, Streelman. 12.45 Curtis, Wiesberger. 12.55 Kapur, Donaldson.

1.05 Grace, English. 1.15 Lehman, O'Meara. 1.25 Wagner, Matsuyama. 1.35 Day, Mahan. 1.45 Leonard, Mickelson. 1.55 Poulter, Watson.

2.10 Molinari, Simpson. 2.20 Scott, Schwartzel. 2.30 Clarke, Spieth. 2.40 Moore, Cabrera. 2.50 Z Johnson, Cabrera-Bella.

3.0 Laird, D Johnson. 3.10 Woods, Westwood. 3.20 Stenson, Jimenez.

Irish Independent

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