GOLF: Rory McIlroy three-putted two of his last three holes yesterday for a disappointing 70 -- five shots off the pace -- in the first round of the Irish Open over a Royal Portrush course he knows so well.
Given "phenomenal" support by an all-ticket crowd there to watch the first staging of the event in Northern Ireland since 1953, the world number two stood four under on the 16th tee.
But there and on the final green he was deceived by the speed, and his task on his return is to make sure he does not suffer a fifth missed cut in six starts.
McIlroy, the course record holder, spoke about a "sloppy finish" and added: "I think as the day went on the greens got a bit slower and coming from the greens I've been putting on (in America) it's a big change."
He was glad to have girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki there for support, but would rather she was still at Wimbledon. The former world number one suffered a shock first-round defeat on Tuesday.
McIlroy admitted feeling nervous on the first tee as a massive crowd waited with bated breath for his first shot of this long-awaited tournament.
"My tee shot there wasn't the best," he admitted. "Yet I felt good out there today, not putting too much pressure on myself and just trying to play my game. So, to drop a couple of shots at the finish was disappointing."
Open champion Darren Clarke battled back from two over after eight to hand in a one-under 71, and hopes to make his first cut of a dire season so far.
Graeme McDowell also shot a 71, which included a double bogey seven on the long 17th.