Early struggles for McIlroy at Irish Open

World number one and tournament host Rory McIlroy suffered a nightmare start to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down on Thursday.

McIlroy came into the event having missed the cut in the BMW PGA Championship, the four-time major winner slumping to a second round of 78 in the defence of his title.

Early struggles for McIlroy at Irish Open

Rory McIlroy plays onto the 11th green during day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle. Picture: Press Association

And despite insisting he felt refreshed after an unexpected weekend off, the 26-year-old carried on where he left off at Wentworth by covering his first nine holes in 41.

Starting on the back nine, McIlroy – who has pledged to donate his prize money this week to his charitable foundation – missed from 15 feet for birdie on the 10th and then bogeyed the 11th after his approach from the rough bounded through the green.

A birdie looked on the cards when McIlroy came up just short of the par-five 12th in two, but he three-putted from long range and things went from bad to worse with four bogeys in succession from the 15th, including further three putts on the 16th and 18th.

That left McIlroy five over par and joint 74th of the 78 morning starters, with a third missed cut in succession in the Irish Open already a distinct possibility.

Playing partner Rickie Fowler had got off to a far better start with birdies on the 10th and 11th, but also three-putted the 12th for par from 20 feet and dropped shots on the 14th and 16th to reach the turn in level par.

Fowler has not competed since winning the Players Championship earlier this month in spectacular style, playing the last six holes at Sawgrass in six under par – taking a tournament-record 11 shots to finish birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie - before beating Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in a play-off.

The world number nine was part of the victorious United States team which won the Walker Cup at Royal County Down in 2007, but it was a member of the Great Britain and Ireland side, England’s Danny Willett, who was setting the early pace.

Willett had covered the back nine in 34 with three birdies and one bogey before picking up another shot on the first, while Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen was also three under after eight holes.

More in this Section

Owen Farrell says England duty is good news for Saracens playersOwen Farrell says England duty is good news for Saracens players

Dual star O’Hara goes on trial with Hawthorn as McShane arrives in AustraliaDual star O’Hara goes on trial with Hawthorn as McShane arrives in Australia

Federer and Djokovic ease into Australian Open third roundFederer and Djokovic ease into Australian Open third round

Rashford confident of Manchester United return before end of the seasonRashford confident of Manchester United return before end of the season


Lifestyle

Dr Sarah Miller is the CEO of Dublin’s Rediscovery Centre, the national centre for the Circular Economy in Ireland. She has a degree in Biotechnology and a PHD in Environmental Science in Waste Conversion Technologies.‘We have to give people positive messages’

When I was pregnant with Joan, I knew she was a girl. We didn’t find out the gender of the baby, but I just knew. Or else, I so badly wanted a girl, I convinced myself that is exactly what we were having.Mum's the Word: I have a confession: I never wanted sons. I wanted daughters

What is it about the teenage years that are so problematic for families? Why does the teenage soul rage against the machine of the adult world?Learning Points: It’s not about the phone, it’s about you and your teen

Judy Collins is 80, and still touring. As she gets ready to return to Ireland, she tells Ellie O’Byrne about the songs that have mattered most in her incredible 60-year career.The songs that matter most to Judy Collins from her 60-year career

More From The Irish Examiner