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Rory McIlroy has no luck of the Irish at Fota Island

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy came up with an ambitious, and rather expensive, solution to his travel problems after a poor opening round left him battling to avoid another early exit from the Irish Open.

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McIlroy has an underwhelming record in his national championship, recording two top 10 finishes in seven appearances and missing the cut last year along with fellow major champions Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.

The 25-year-old, who declared he will represent Ireland at the 2016 Rio Olympics as opposed to Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland, had the incentives of being able to move top of the European Tour's Race to Dubai and getting back inside the world's top five, but could only card a three-over-par 74 at Fota Island.

McIlroy's clubs only arrived on Wednesday morning after being lost in transit from last week's US Open – hardly ideal preparation.

"I'm jet-lagged wherever I go because I'm travelling so much, so it's not like that's an excuse for me," said McIlroy, who was joint 23rd at Pinehurst on six over par.

"But not being able to do much on Monday and Tuesday was really frustrating, I would have liked to have hit some balls and done some practice to prepare.

"But that's just the way it goes and I just need to play better over the next few years and get my own plane so that doesn't happen again."

McIlroy carded six bogeys and three birdies in his round, raising his arms aloft in mock celebration after the last of the birdies from 15 feet on the ninth, his final hole.

"It's tough because I feel like I have been playing well for a while and I am still getting days like this," added McIlroy.

"When you are playing well you should be capitalising on that and not throwing in scores like I did today.

"I still drove the ball well and got in the positions that you need to, but short-sided myself a couple of times, hit a couple of loose shots with my wedges and could not get a putt to drop.

"I was pretty sloppy with the scoring clubs so I might head to the range to work on those. I need to do better tomorrow.

"I need something in the mid-60s that gets me back in the tournament. All the par fives out here are reachable for me. There's a few short par fours and there's plenty of chances to score. I'll try to get to four or five under for the tournament and go from there."

McIlroy was joint 123rd in the 156-man field and 10 shots adrift of leader Mikko Ilonen, the world number 63 firing eight birdies and one bogey to establish a new course record of 64.

Ilonen is looking to climb into the world's top 50 for the first time and boosted his chances with five birdies in his last seven holes.

"I made a mess of our 10th hole, the first hole," said Ilonen. "I hit a big drive, was in the middle of the fairway with a sand wedge and I walked off with a five.

"I didn't get too angry with it and just got going and kept hitting greens and kept giving myself chances. I made a few putts."

Germany's Marcel Siem also made more than his fair share of putts, the world number 125 covering the back nine in 29 to card a 66 and share second place with Swedish duo Robert Karlsson and Magnus A Carlsson.

Harrington returned a two-under 69 matched by defending champion Paul Casey, who dropped two shots in his last six holes to finish one behind playing partner McDowell.

English teenager Matt Fitzpatrick managed to card a one-over 72 in his first tournament round as a professional.

Belfast Telegraph


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