independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

McIlroy at a loss after shooting 79

Rory McIlroy cut a disconsolate figure following an opening 79 at Muirfield

Rory McIlroy was hoping to find the missing spark from his game in order to make the halfway cut in the Open Championship, after admitting he might need to enlist the services of a sports psychologist.

McIlroy cut a disconsolate figure following an opening 79 at Muirfield that included two double bogeys in the space of four holes in a back nine of 42.

The first of those sixes had the world number two describing his approach as "brain dead" and confessing to a worrying lack of confidence that shows no signs of improving.

"I've worked with Bob (Rotella) before a little bit. It could be beneficial to see someone like that again. We'll see," McIlroy said. "I felt like I struck the ball okay. So as long as I can somewhat get my mind in a better place, I can go out there and try and shoot a good score.

"I want to try to be here for the weekend. But the thing that I need to do is just go out there and freewheel it and try and make birdies and try and play with that little bit of whatever it is I have usually.

"But sometimes I feel like I'm walking around out there and I'm unconscious. Going left of the pin on 12, when I had no right to be going anywhere near that pin, that's just thoughtless. It's just so brain dead.

"Seriously, I feel like I've been walking around out there like that for the last couple of months. I'm trying to get out of it. I just don't quite know why."

The 24-year-old was not the only star name to suffer on an opening day which saw Masters champion Zach Johnson card a five-under 66 to lead by one from Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello and 1998 champion Mark O'Meara.

Luke Donald's nine-over par 80 equalled the worst round of his Open career - his first ever round in the event at Carnoustie in 1999 - and US Open champion Justin Rose returned a 75 containing just one birdie.

"I was not thinking about Merion so I can't use that as an excuse. I need to get a good round of golf together and maybe be a bit more aggressive with my iron shots rather than trying to not make mistakes," Rose said.

"I feel very comfortable as a major champion. I understand what works for me and how I can get the best out of myself, but it does not make the game any easier."

Playing partner Ernie Els could attest to that, the defending champion returning a 74 that featured three shots in a bunker and a triple-bogey six on the 16th, the same hole which cost him a double-bogey five in the final round during his victory here in 2002.

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