Rory McIlroy bounced straight back from his disappointing Open Championship by taking the early lead at the Irish Open in Killarney today.
The 22-year-old, playing his first tournament on home soil since his incredible eight-shot US Open victory in June, birdied the fourth, sixth, eighth and 10th holes to be two clear of the field at four-under-par.
McIlroy was the talk of golf after what he did in Washington, but managed only 25th place at Sandwich and, clearly frustrated, doubted his ability ever to win in bad weather.
It was then announced that the Irishman’s relationship with long-time girlfriend Holly Sweeney was over and he was linked with tennis world number one Caroline Wozniacki, but he just laughed yesterday when asked if the tape on his fingers was caused by playing too much tennis.
“Very funny,” he said before commenting about his personal life: “I try to keep it as private as possible.
“Sometimes it’s not possible, but it is what it is and you just have to handle that as best you can.”
McIlroy was playing with defending champion Ross Fisher, who, after scrambling a par on the first from the hazard by Lough Leane, birdied the second and eighth.
That put him into a tie for second with fellow Englishmen Graeme Storm and 51-year-old Barry Lane and also Australian left-hander Richard Green and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
Last year’s US Open champion Graeme McDowell, however, followed eight opening pars with a bogey on the ninth – and this after missing the cut at The Open.
Ireland’s amazing success story of late continued there, of course, with Darren Clarke’s victory at the 20th attempt.
He and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington were among the afternoon starters.
McIlroy's first bogey came on the 486-yard 11th after a drive into the left rough and he was caught at the top when Storm, in the first group of the day at 7am, two-putted the long 16th.
McDowell had yet to find a birdie and matching McIlroy’s bogey on the 11th left him two-over and down near the rear of the field.