Putter stutters frustrate McIlroy
Rory McIlroy three-putted two of his last three holes for a disappointing 70 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 both there and on the final green he was deceived by the speed - or lack of it - and his first task on his return is now to make sure he does not suffer a fifth missed cut in six starts.
McIlroy, the course record holder with a 61 set when he was only 16, 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.
Open champion Darren Clarke battled back from two over after eight to hand in a one under 71 and hopes now to make his first cut of what has been a dire season so far.
Not one of Northern Ireland's 'Big Three' broke 70 as Graeme McDowell also had a 71. It included a double bogey seven on the long 17th, but he went over the rough from the rough into bushes.