Lough Erne: Rory McIlroy shines in Northern Ireland dream team
An imperious display by Rory McIlroy was more than enough to see off the challenge of Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry at Lough Erne yesterday.
As Darren Clarke put it: “He made all the birdies, and I was just out there for the ride.”
The Ulster pair were playing on the same team for the first time — they are more used to taking each other on in practice rounds — and it proved a solid combination as the Northern Ireland pair beat their southern counterparts by a single shot six under to five under.
A wonderful chip-in from Lowry at the 17th served only to prolong the agony as the rain hammered down on a fairly miserable looking Lough Erne resort for most of the afternoon.
Both Harrington and Lowry looked thoroughly fed up with it all as they reached the 17th fairway, both in good position, but on one of the parts of the course most exposed to the elements right on Lower Lough Erne.
And that's exactly where Harrington's pitch ended up, landing on the bank just short of the green and bouncing straight back into
But it was a cardinal error in a fourball for his partner to follow him into the drink as Lowry did, but while Harrington — playing for par after a penalty drop — lipped out with his effort from just off the green, Lowry redeemed himself by chipping in, which was enough for a par to take them to the last still just one adrift.
But, even with more water between the 18th tee and the green, there was to be no more drama as the hole was halved in par threes — McIlroy having the honour of tapping in the winning putt.
That was just as it should be, as the world number seven had made most of the running all day.
He hit birdies at the second, third and fourth to give the Ulstermen a commanding early advantage — which was compounded at the par three fifth, when Lowry's tee-shot found the water, Harrington failed to get up and down and McIlroy nailed yet another birdie putt to leave the ‘home’ team three shots clear.
The gap had closed to three by the turn after Lowry birdied the short downhill seventh hole.
And that gap closed to just one when both Clarke and McIlroy managed to three-putt the 11th, despite both having wedge in their hand for their approach shots.
Harrington got in on the act on the par three 13th hole, rolling in a birdie putt from 30 feet, which just had enough energy to reach the cup before dropping after both Clarke and McIlroy had come up short of the green from the tee.
That left the match level with both sides four under, but that was as close as the southerners were to get.
McIlroy hit a stunning seven iron into six feet at the par three 15th and watched as Lowry, Harrington and then Clarke all missed their birdie attempts. He did not, seizing the initiative with holes running out.
Two brilliant efforts from the elevated 16th from Harrington and McIlroy led to eagle attempts, which both came close, leaving tap-ins for birdie to leave just a shot between them as the reached the 17th when any real chance the visitors had, disappeared beneath the waves of Lough Erne.