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Home hopes rest with Lowry

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28 June 2013; Rory McIlroy after missing his eagle putt on the 18th green during the Irish Open Golf Championship 2013. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

28 June 2013; Rory McIlroy after missing his eagle putt on the 18th green during the Irish Open Golf Championship 2013. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

28 June 2013; Rory McIlroy after missing his eagle putt on the 18th green during the Irish Open Golf Championship 2013. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Rory McIlroy will head into the British Open Championship at Muirfield on the back of a missed cut at the Irish Open – and was joined in making an early exit by fellow major winners Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke.

McIlroy could only add a 72 to his opening 74 at Carton House to finish two over par, with McDowell and Harrington missing out by one shot on one over and Clarke six over.

That left former winner Shane Lowry to carry the burden of home hopes, as current Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley also made an early exit after a disastrous second round of 76 to put him two over par overall, two shots from safety.

Lowry, the 2009 champion, returned a second-round 70 to share third place on seven under, two shots behind leaders Robert Rock – whom he beat in a play-off four years ago – and American Peter Uihlein.

McIlroy admitted on Thursday he felt "a little bit lost" as he struggles to rediscover the form which brought him five victories last year and made him world number one.

But the 24-year-old said he would not add either the French or Scottish Open to his schedule ahead of the third major championship of the year, instead honouring sponsor and family commitments and working on getting the right Nike driver.

"If I did not have those commitments I probably would, but as long as I play rounds and be competitive myself – play with one ball – it's the same sort of thing," McIlroy said. "My schedule has been light, but from the Open onwards I am playing seven events in nine or 10 weeks. I still have a lot of golf to play.

"It was a new driver in the bag this week but it's still not 100 per cent so I will be testing next week, but it's definitely more swing than it is club. Two weeks is a lot of time to try and get something right and hopefully I will be ready for Muirfield.

 

CHANCE

"It's not great for the tournament that myself, Graeme, Darren, Pádraig and Paul McGinley are not here for the weekend, but we have Shane up there and after playing with him for two days I think he has a good chance going into the weekend."

Despite holding off Tiger Woods and McIlroy to win the Abu Dhabi Championship last year, Rock's biggest payday remains the "winner's" cheque of €500,000 he collected at Baltray in 2009, with Lowry unable to claim it as he was still an amateur.

"I'll never forget that day, playing with Shane," Rock said after a flawless 66 that included four birdies and an eagle from just four feet on the par-five fourth.

"That was really, really tough. That was probably harder than playing with Tiger in the final group, because I did feel like I had some people on my side in Abu Dhabi! I don't even think there was one (in Ireland).

"Playing with Tiger Woods is pretty cool. After that I was quite happy with what I've achieved for a while, and then I set about trying to change little bits of my game to hopefully get better and to be in that position a bit more often.

"What stood out from that week was I putted really, really well but I didn't really know why and didn't have any sort of framework to my putting that I do for the rest of my game."

That is still a work in progress, but a video putting lesson via email in the early hours of last Sunday morning led to a final round of 65 in the BMW International Open.

"Jonathan Yarwood told me a few things to change in the set-up," Rock added.

"I'm feeling quite awkward doing it so on some putts I'm hitting average putts because I'm confusing myself a little bit, but on the whole it's been good."

Uihlein was ranked the top amateur in the world before turning professional in 2011 and taking the unusual decision for an American to ply his trade in Europe.

The 23-year-old won the Madeira Islands Open last month and then saw his housemate Brooks Koepka win three times this season on the Challenge Tour to gain 'battlefield promotion' to the European Tour.

"I've had a very good support group with Chubby (Chandler, his manager) and my coach Butch Harmon and my dad (the chairman of top equipment company Acushnet)," Uihlein said after adding a 68 to his opening 67.

 

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"Those guys have been around the game a long, long time. If they say this is the right route, then I'm going to listen to them.

"And I look at a guy like Adam Scott, somebody I've always looked up to, and he came over to Europe and started off his career.

"Rory did the same thing, start in Europe before heading to the States. There's been a lot of guys who have done it and had great success. It's just different me being an American and doing it."

Asked what he missed most about America, Uihlein joked: "The ice in drinks," while he had a simple answer when asked what his friends quiz him most about regarding his life in Europe.

"Women, that's probably the common question," he laughed.


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