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Irish Open: Rory will get right back into swing after poor showing

By Steven Beacom

Rory McIlroy sped out of Royal County Down Golf Club in his sleek black Range Rover. He was not hanging about.

Moments before he had walked off the 18th green and completed his media duties.

The golden boy of golf was headed home to Holywood.

And to use the Ulster vernacular, he was away to get his head showered.

This has been a delightful week for McIlroy off the course but a difficult one on it, missing the cut of a tournament he was hosting.

The perfect end to the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open would have been for him to top the leaderboard tomorrow.

Instead there is every chance he will be among the presentation party, handing over the trophy to someone else.

It's not just disappointing for McIlroy to miss out on the weekend action.

Think of the 40,000 expected through the gates over Saturday and Sunday who were coming to see him drive, chip and putt.

There may still be some stellar names here in Newcastle, but none are Rory McIlroy, are they?

The bottom line is that many of the men, women and children attending the final two days of the tournament bought their tickets in the hope that they would see the World Number One and four-time major winner in the flesh.

If they do, it will be in an ambassadorial capacity, as head of the Rory Foundation, acting as hosts for the Irish Open, rather than as the best golfer on the planet swinging a club.

It was always going to be difficult for McIlroy yesterday following his horrible round of 80 on Thursday.

He needed a performance as spectacular as the course itself to put himself in the frame to play over the weekend.

And everybody was willing him to do it, from those on the course to those miles away thinking about Saturday and Sunday trips to Newcastle.

When he began, the feeling was that Rory would need to go round in 66 to make the projected cut mark of +4. By the end it was +5.

On the first tee, McIlroy received a reception fit for a king. The cheers were long and loud as he was announced to the packed grandstand and thousands lining the fairway.

Rory had brought them great joy and pride with his victories across the world and here they were supporting him every step of the way on home turf.

He wanted to get momentum going, but also knew that on a course like Royal County Down it was impossible to go chasing birdies.

The start was steady. Six pars in a row. Decent. No bogeys was the key factor.

Then on the treacherous par three seventh came his first birdie of the tournament to huge cheers from his fans, who seemed to increase in number with every hole.

The charge was on. Not so fast. It was steady as he goes for the next four holes, each one walked away from with a par in the bank.

Then on the 12th, another birdie, a four at the par five. McIlroy was on seven over, needing two birdies in his final six holes.

There was excitement all around the Newcastle links. Rory was going to complete a memorable comeback. The Holywood hero was going to pen another stunning script and climb the Mourne mountains after all.

Halfway up, he slipped and started sliding on the 15th with a shocking second shot missing the green and an even worse chip leaving him little chance of par. He fluffed the return putt and within seconds was writing SIX, a double bogey, on his card and he was back where he started on nine over.

Rory's race was run. There was no way back up the mountain and despite making a dramatic par at the last which brought with it one of the mightiest roars of the day, McIlroy was out of the Irish Open for the third year in a row without making the cut.

There was no hiding his disappointment.

"It's one of the tournaments of the year that I really earmarked that I wanted to try and do well in," he said. 

"It's my third year in a row where all of the people out there supporting me won't be able to watch me over the last couple of days."

On how he played, which was a huge improvement on the day before, McIlroy said: "I felt like I played okay. When the wind is like this and the conditions, it's hard even if you're giving yourself birdie chances, it's hard to take advantage of them. 

"I was trying out there as hard as I could and just couldn't quite get a good run of holes going and get any momentum. 

"I was a couple under through 14 but I still needed a good finish. Unfortunately I wasn't able to do that. I really left myself too much to do from Thursday. I felt like I played a solid round of golf but it just wasn't enough."

Many felt that if he was to make the cut, McIlroy would have to blitz the course with birdies early on. He said that was never on.

"It's definitely not a golf course or conditions where you can go chasing. You just have to plod along. I made 12 pars and two birdies in the first 14 holes and that's sort of the golf that you need to play around here," added McIlroy 

"It was just unfortunate with the double-bogey on 15, and then after that, I was trying to chase on 16 and 17. I had two great chances there and didn't make them. That's the way it goes."

And with that McIlroy was away to reflect on all the good work he has done off the course this week and to think about what he needs to do on it ahead of the upcoming US Open. He may have underperformed here but don't rule out a fifth major by the end of next month.

Belfast Telegraph

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