McIlroy in meltdown – but plucky Harrington keeps Irish hopes alive
There's no place like home - unless you're Rory McIlroy at the Irish Open.
The world's top golfer went into meltdown and is now facing the prospect of a very short appearance at the tournament in his home county of Down.
Nine bogies and no birdies mean that he will need a brilliant round today - and one way or another, the fans lining the famous Royal County Down course in Newcastle are in for an exciting outing. Those hoping to be distracted from McIlroy's disastrous round by an influx of superstars were left wanting yesterday.
Expectations of a star-studded audience were on the cards, following the Pro-Am event on Wednesday, but it is likely to be the weekend before we see big names in the stands.
Famous faces from outside the golfing world were also few and far between yesterday, leading some opportunistic scammers to conjure up images of A-listers near the event. Initial rumours suggested that Holywood's Rory McIlroy has some serious pull in Hollywood as well.
But, unfortunately, social media users have been duped into thinking that heartthrob George Clooney had been strolling along the streets of Newcastle.
Instead, McIlroy was cheered around the course by local fans wanting the hometown hero to do well.
However, while the 26-year-old struggled it was Dubliner Padraig Harrington who will start today sitting pretty at the top of the leaderboard.
Despite his woes, McIlroy managed to retain his sense of humour and joked that he made things look a lot harder than they were.
"It was not quite as difficult as I made it look," admitted McIlroy, who played most of his round in blustery conditions.
During the fleeting minutes of sunshine, the tree-covered hills which run to the sea offered a sense of sheer serenity.
"This is why I love golf," said Waterford man Paul Kelly, who had queued since 6am to gain entry to the ground.
"Look at this, it is amazing, where else in the world will you find it. This is what it is all about. I'm just disappointed the golf and weather weren't quite as good as the scenery today."
Despite McIlroy's nightmare start, Dubliner Liam Murphy doesn't think the world number one is done just yet. You can't write him off; he is the best golfer in the world, and this is his home ground.
"I know he hasn't got the best record in this tournament, but I still think he has more to give. I hope Harrington wins, but any Irish winner from either side of the border will be fine by me," he added.