Wednesday 25 April 2018

McIlroy roller-coaster ride hits another dip

Rory McIlroy couldn't repeat his first round heroics as he slumped to a six-over par 78. Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy couldn't repeat his first round heroics as he slumped to a six-over par 78. Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Rory McIlroy endured yet another nightmare Friday in a season of mazy, sometimes crazy, twists and turns.

After storming into the lead at the Memorial with a sensational first-round 63, McIlroy stumbled to a shocking 78 yesterday, a whopping 15-stroke difference which he refused point blank to blame on his injured knee.

The calamitous 43 strokes required by the 25-year-old to complete his outward half at Muirfield Village yesterday was McIlroy's highest score for nine holes since that infamous Sunday afternoon implosion at Augusta National in the 2011 Masters.

It included a horror stretch of three successive double-bogeys at 13, 14 and 15, a couple more dropped shots at 10, his opening hole, and 18, with a penalty stroke for a double-hit thrown in for good measure.

The solitary bright point was a two at the par-three 12th, where McIlroy holed a six-foot putt.

PALTRY

Still, this was a paltry return alongside the two eagles and three birdies the Holywood star accumulated on the back nine as he played it in 31 on Thursday, including a double-bogey at 14.

To his credit, McIlroy kept his composure and played markedly better as he came home in one-under 35 but his first nine holes were so ill-starred that there were some fears of black magic after his former fiancee Caroline Wozniacki yesterday changed her lead Twitter picture to a shot of her dressed all in black and stirring a bubbling witch's cauldron.

McIlroy offered a simpler, more logical explanation, pointing out that any misfortune he had yesterday was founded on his wayward hitting off the tee.

Hocus-pocus wasn't involved, nor, he insisted, a worrying left knee injury, which required ice treatment and physio overnight after he tweaked the joint while playing a full-blooded three-wood on the fairway at seven on Thursday.

Though he admitted it became "a little sore" as he hit shot after shot during his warm-up on the range, McIlroy insisted: "On the course, it was fine. The painkillers kicked in. I felt it a little bit but it didn't bother me too much.

"The difference today was missing fairways. I didn't realise the rough was that thick until I got in it. I hit a decent drive on 10, first hole of the day, and was just in the rough but couldn't get to the green.

"I made bogey there and I just kept missing fairways and making it tough for myself. Obviously, that little three-hole stretch at 13, 14 and 15 didn't help. Take those three holes out of it and it wouldn't have been that bad of a day."

At 13, McIlroy went into the trees off the tee and only got out a couple of ricochets later. His six at 14 included a dip in the water hazard, while he clocked up three of his seven strokes at 15, including that double-hit, in a greenside bunker.

McIlroy's tendency to throw in a damaging run of holes in several tournaments this year cost him dearly in recent weeks at the Masters, Quail Hollow and the Players at Sawgrass.

Usually, these stretches come on Friday, which helps explain why his second-round scoring average on the PGA Tour this year stands at 74.4, five shots more than the 69.4 he averages for the other three days at tournaments.

If McIlroy appeared to shake off his Friday phobia as he swept to BMW PGA Championship victory at Wentworth last week, it returned with a vengeance yesterday. "It's not disastrous. Even though I had such a bad day, I'm still in with a chance, depending on what the guys do this afternoon," said McIlroy, who trailed early clubhouse leader Thorbjorn Olesen by three after a second-round 67 lifted the young Dane to six-under.

However, the Ulsterman was nine shots behind Irish Open champ Paul Casey by day's end as the in-form Englishman matched Thursday's opening 66 to lead Bubba Watson by three shots despite a frustrating bogey at the last.

Asked if yesterday's setbacks might dent his confidence, McIlroy replied: "No, I don't think so. I'm still hitting good shots and played the front nine quite nicely. I just need to get back out there tomorrow and get off to a good start.

"It seemed like anything that could go wrong did go wrong out there but, hopefully, that's the bad round out of the way."

THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT, LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 5.30pm

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport