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McIlroy leads Irish exodus

Rory McIlroy will head into the Open Championship at Muirfield on the back of a missed cut at the Irish Open - and was joined in making an early exit by fellow major winners Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke.

McIlroy could only add a 72 to his opening 74 at Carton House to finish two over par, with McDowell and Harrington missing out by one shot on one over and Clarke six over.

That left former winner Shane Lowry to carry the burden of home hopes as the 2009 champion returned a second-round 70 to share third place on seven under, two shots behind leaders Robert Rock - whom he beat in a play-off four years ago - and American Peter Uihlein.

McIlroy admitted on Thursday he felt "a little bit lost" as he struggles to rediscover the form which brought him five victories last year and made him world number one.

But the 24-year-old said he would not add either the French or Scottish Open to his schedule ahead of the third major championship of the year, instead honouring sponsor and family commitments and working on getting the right Nike driver.

"If I did not have those commitments I probably would, but as long as I play rounds and be competitive myself - play with one ball - it's the same sort of thing," McIlroy said. "My schedule has been light, but from the Open onwards I am playing seven events in nine or 10 weeks. I still have a lot of golf to play.

"It was a new driver in the bag this week but it's still not 100% so I will be testing next week, but it's definitely more swing than it is club. Two weeks is a lot of time to try and get something right and hopefully I will be ready for Muirfield.

"It's not great for the tournament that myself, Graeme, Darren, Padraig and Paul McGinley are not here for the weekend, but we have Shane up there and after playing with him for two days I think he has a good chance going into the weekend."

Despite holding off Tiger Woods and McIlroy to win the Abu Dhabi Championship last year, Rock's biggest payday remains the "winner's" cheque of 500,000 euros he collected at Baltray in 2009, with Lowry unable to claim it as he was still an amateur.

Uihlein was ranked the top amateur in the world before turning professional in 2011 and taking the unusual decision for an American to ply his trade in Europe. The 23-year-old carded a 68 on Friday, with Rock going round in 66 to hold a share of the lead. Jose Maria Olazabal is two shots back following his round of 69.

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