The new course record for the Lough Erne resort is 68.
That’s what Rory McIlroy shot yesterday to beat Padraig Harrington by two shots — four under to two under.
“I’d like to think I can play again and take a few off that,” the Ulsterman said after securing the bragging rights from the first Duel on the Lough.
He could have come home five or even six shots better than that yesterday, he missed that many birdie putts.
Playing virtually flawless golf throughout, he was never remotely in danger of dropping a shot.
It was a different story for Harrington who found water three times, was two over par after 10 and had to dig incredibly deep on the back nine.
“I still had a chance going to the 18th and that was very important to make it exciting,” he said.
“When I was five shots behind I wasn’t too happy with the situation. Two shots at the end I can live with.
“The holes in front of the hotel with the amount of people we had were fantastic.”
A glorious approach to the first
green to a couple of feet set the tone for McIlroy’s day while Harrington had his first encounter with the wet stuff to go one over.
Harrington birdies on the second and fourth holes brought the match back level after the Dubliner hit a quite majestic third within a matter of inches on the par five hole.
McIlroy managed to drive the 396-yard par four seventh green from the elevated tee and walked the length of the hole with putter in hand.
Harrington was left with no real way back into the match when he bogeyed the tenth hole followed by a double-bogey six on the next, leaving him five shots adrift.
At that 11th he had to take a penalty drop after finding trouble over the back of the green and he then fluffed his tough chip shot.
But from there he birdied three of the next five holes to get back within two shots with a couple still to play.
He holed out magnificently on the back nine and, remarkably, still had a chance to win the $300,000 prize as they headed to the last tee in front of the hotel.
McIlroy was in three-putt country more than 50 feet from the pin with Harrington looking at a 20-foot birdie putt. But McIlroy had saved his best putt ’til last, rolling the ball to within a few inches of the cup for a cast-iron three and Harrington failed from 20 feet.
“The course is great,” said Harrington.
“There are plenty of birdie opportunities out there and plenty of intimidating shots.
“There’s plenty of water, as I found out, but it’s a golf course that is going to give people plenty of memories.”
McIlroy added: “It was great to play well and win.
“It was the first time I had played a competitive game of golf around Lough Erne and it was fantastic.
“It was great to see so many people coming out to support us.
“Last week was so tough in so many ways that it was nice to come out in a less competitive environment — not that we both weren’t trying very hard out there to win.”