JOHN MCHENRY: 4 things Rory McIlroy will learn from Irish Open experience

When Rory McIlroy pushed his second shot wide on the 15th hole, his reaction said it all.

He had spent the day gallantly chasing the tournament halfway cut of five over par and with just four holes to play, he had given himself a chance with the relatively easy 16th, 17th and 18th holes to play. 

But one loose shot destroyed those ambitions. His body language over the last three holes spoke volumes.

The damage, of course, was done during a careless first round of 80 and although yesterday’s performance was much better, his experience this week will have been chastening.

So what will he have learned?

1. 

Firstly his efforts in hosting this week’s event clearly have taken too much out of him. If he is to be competitive in his own event, he will need others to shoulder most of the burden in terms of off course commitments.

2. 

If Rory wants the Irish Open to return to a links course anytime soon, then the event must be scheduled for a later date when the weather is guaranteed to be warmer. 

Rory’s hard work in securing a phenomenal field for this year’s staging could all be undone as the test was simply too tough. One now hopes that the likes of Garcia and Kaymer, who both also missed the cut, will stay patient with McIlroy in terms of supporting the event.

3. 

From a playing perspective, McIlroy again demonstrated the lack of patience that marred his early career on tour. He was trying to play shots that simply were not on — rather than building his score patiently. 

One can assume that many of these errors were caused by the fatigue of five tournaments in a row and the hype associated with this event.

4. 

Rory’s putting is a concern. Putting in gusting winds on heavily contoured surfaces is difficult at best but McIlroy seemed to be all at sea in terms of getting the lines and pace of his putts right. 

Yesterday I noticed that he wasn’t even using the line on his ball to line up his target point, which suggests a lack of confidence — something which he needs to address as soon as possible.

 

So for the third year in row, McIlroy missed the business end of an Irish Open — the event he and his foundation have played such a prominent role in reviving. His loss is huge but the show must go on.

Thanks to Rory, we do still have a stellar field competing for the title over the weekend and given the testing conditions anyone who can muster two quality rounds stands a chance of claiming the title.

What is noticeable is that the leaderboard is not dominated by power hitters but by great short game exponents like our own Pádraig Harrington who undoubtedly feels that he blew a wonderful opportunity to build a lead, when at seven under par midway through his second round. 

Harrington, more than any other player in the field, understands the give and take of links golf and at this stage is amongst the favourites but he too must now show the sort of courage and patience he so readily demonstrated in years gone by if he is to prevail.

This week I have been very impressed with his game, most notably his accuracy off the tee and his putting. His course management has been excellent and if he can continue the form of the opening rounds then it will come down to whether or not he can hole out enough putts to keep him competitive. 

Harrington though is always inextricably linked with drama and that should not change this weekend given the bunched pack and a golf course which provides a stern test around every corner. Hold on to your seats. There will be more twists and turns before this one is done.

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