Belfast Telegraph

Irish Open: 'This was Rory McIlroy at his ambassadorial best'

The old magic around the fairways might have been missing, but McIlroy can hold his head high for his efforts at Newcastle this week

By Deric Henderson

Padraig Harrington got it absolutely spot-on.

In that unmistakable matter-of-fact Dublin tone he observed with a degree of sympathy: "He's given so much to the Irish Open. You know, ultimately it was ... maybe it was a step too far."

Before he ever became a famous US broadcaster and still living in these parts, David Feherty once claimed that for an Irishman to win the Irish Open was virtually impossible because of so many distractions and demands on players' time.

Old friends want to engage and pass on their good wishes, offer a handshake and seek signatures on whatever piece of memorabilia is pushed in their direction. Harrington in 2007 at Adare Manor and Shane Lowry at Baltray in 2009 later proved him wrong. But it's never easy.

As a protected species it isn't quite like that for Rory McIlroy. It is probably 10 times worse.

And as he departed Royal County Down last night having come up short to miss the cut of a great tournament on what is surely some of the finest golfing terrain on the planet, there was an air of disappointment, even sadness.

Such a pity that someone who dedicated so much of his time away from the course by effectively hosting the event is no longer sitting at the top table at this feast of golf.

He hasn't left the room, however, yet somehow it won't be the same.

Rory behind the ropes isn't what the thousands of fans wanted to see, but he owes them nothing.

I followed him for nine holes in the wind, rain and sunshine, and if ever there was a crowd willing their man to raise his game after a horrific opening round of 80 shots, then it was the one sheltering under the brollies which lined the fairways and filled the grandstands yesterday afternoon.

The conditions couldn't have been more difficult on a tough course which offers no concessions, just the way the members of that exclusive club by the Mournes wanted it to be.

Normally he could birdie the first with his eyes closed, but when he walked away towards the second tee in that familiar stride of his - purposeful, focused and determined - having just putted for a four, then the omens were not good.

It just didn't happen until the short seventh where he got his two. You could have heard the roar in Annalong and when he managed to get a miraculous par at the ninth after a pushed tee shot left him in heavy rough, people started to entertain thoughts of a comeback.

It wasn't to be, however, and his double bogey on the 16th which left him back where he started on nine over, signalled the start of a long farewell walk up 17 and 18 and a standing ovation. Deservedly so.

This was Rory McIlory at his ambassadorial best, waving, smiling, lifting his cap at the end of a momentous week in which he gave so much time, effort, and money to help those in a far worse place than he is.

He had already pledged his winnings to the Rory Foundation which provides support for up to 500 families a year affected by cancer, including those in care at Daisy Lodge Centre just down the road. No doubt he'll write the cheque anyway.

Van The Man did his bit with a fundraising concert the previous night and as he headed for the locker room in the RCD clubhouse, Rory probably reflected on a line from one of Morrison's great songs: "My momma told me there'd be days like this."

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