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The Open: Holywood star McIlroy still home town hero despite performance

McIlroy had given himself a chance of making the weekend (David Davies/PA)
McIlroy had given himself a chance of making the weekend (David Davies/PA)
Niall McFerran

By David Young

At Rory McIlroy's home town club in leafy Holywood, Co Down, members could not hide their disappointment that their local hero hadn't been firing on all cylinders at the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush

"We're obviously not happy at the minute," former club captain Eddie Harper told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He needed to do well in the first five holes - but it just didn't happen. He needed birdies and he didn't get them."

"It's disappointing. He had the worst possible start in The Open, but we're all still right behind him" Eddie added.

Asked how he would describe Rory's performance at The Open, Another former club captain, Terry Malone, said: "Disastrous. That's all I have to say.

"He should at least have tried a bit harder the last few holes and not pack it in so easy.

"His form's been good up to now.

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Tommy Fleetwood of England tees off the 2nd during the second round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 19, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Tommy Fleetwood of England tees off the 2nd during the second round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 19, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 19: Fans of Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland show their support from their balcony during the second round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 19, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
USA's JB Holmes tees off the 2nd during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Richard Sellers/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
US golfer Brooks Koepka fills a tobacco tin at the 5th tee during the second round of the British Open golf Championships at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 18, 2019. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
Spectator sits down with Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard ball under him during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Richard Sellers/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
Tommy Fleetwood of England reacts on the 4th hole during the second round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 19, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods celebrates his opening birdie in round two at The Open.
Jordan Spieth went birdie, birdie, eagle from the fifth to the seventh on Friday at The Open.
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 19: Brooks Koepka of the United States walks on the 1st hole with his caddie, Ricky Elliot during the second round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 19, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Lawnmowers on course during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez in the rough on the 2nd during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
USA's Tom Lehman before his first tee shot during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
USA's Tom Lehman tees off the 1st to start day one during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.

"If he'd done yesterday what he has done today, he'd have been all right!"

The bar at the Holywood club was packed with former club captains.

One, Ray Watt, said: "Rory just had a bad day yesterday (Thursday).

"After that start it was always going to be difficult for him - but we're still all great supporters of Rory here," he added.

"This year, he's largely been in the top 10 of everything he has played in - and when you think of the quality of golf in this day and age, that's pretty special," Brian Giddings, another former club captain, chipped in.

Club member Niall McFadden attributed Rory's Open difficulties to the huge weight of expectations laid on him to perform well on his home turf.

"I think he's under a lot of pressure," Niall said.

"As an individual, there would be a lot of pressure.

"All eyes have been on him over the course of the last few days.

"It's not going to be easy in front of the home crowd.

"People are going to be expecting quite a bit of you," the golfer said.

"I think there is a mental battle there. It's tough for him. He's in a situation where he is struggling in some respects."

Mr McFadden contrasted the sparkling performance from Ireland's Shane Lowry, who faced none of the hometown pressure placed on Rory.

"You can have good days and bad days.

"Shane Lowry has come in and he's doing brilliantly.

"He's under none of the pressure Rory is under."

Niall said massive expectations had been heaped on the Holywood golfer's shoulders.

"If you combine local expectation and the pressure he's put on himself, and the fact that he's also been heavily involved on the preparation of the event, put all that together and it's very easy to lose focus on how you are playing.

"When he plays in the USA, he doesn't have that burden - and that gives him a lot more freedom."

Martin Atkinson, speaking as Rory mounted a valiant but unsuccessful comeback battle last night, said: "I think it started badly and then got worse." He too felt there was huge pressure of the Holywood hero to perform in front of his home crowd.

"But when Rory starts well, there's no stopping him" added Martin.

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