Irish Open: Pals are expecting Rory McIlory to roar back
Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke believe their pal Rory McIlroy can bounce back from his opening round horror show at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and refused to rule him out of making the halfway cut.
McDowell and Clarke finished their first rounds before McIlroy, but were well aware of the drama behind them as the Holywood native hit a nine over par 80 at Royal County Down.
That score left the tournament host, who has attracted some big names to the Newcastle venue, at the bottom of the field and in serious danger of failing to make it through to Saturday and Sunday.
McDowell, who had a one over par 72 and Clarke (four over par 75) both acknowledged that the extra duties McIlroy has had to undertake this week have made it difficult for the world No.1 to focus solely on golf.
McDowell said: "I'm disappointed for Rory, but with all his responsibilities this week he can be let off the hook for not having his full 110 per cent focus on.
"It's a big undertaking what he has done and we all thank him because he has elevated this tournament to the next level.
"I am sure he will be very disappointed with his performance, but it is very tricky out there and if you are a little off, this golf course can beat you up."
Clarke added: "He's a busy man with hosting the tournament and we owe him a lot for this week. I'm sure Rory will be disappointed, but that's golf. That's links golf.
"It's difficult to give yourself really good birdie chances unless you're on top of your game."
Offering words of encouragement, McDowell said: "He's the number one player in the world and I know he'll come out for the second round and battle as hard as he can to see if he can get himself back on the cut line."
Europe's Ryder Cup captain Clarke said: "Rory is Rory, a couple of days from now he might be back up there!"