Being Ryder Cup captain means showing faith in your big gun and both 2014 skipper Paul McGinley and 2016 European boss Darren Clarke had sympathy for a struggling Rory McIlroy.
The world No. 1 clearly played poorly for a nine-over 80 that left him propping up the field.
But both Clarke and McGinley had nothing negative to say about a player that’s been a stalwart in Ryder Cups since 2010.
“Rory has huge demands on his time,” McGinley said. “He’s won two of last four tournaments, there’s nothing wrong with him.”
Clarke added: “He’s got a lot of stuff going on. He’s a busy man everywhere he goes. I’m sure he wants to play well this week but that’s golf.”
Phelan’s missing links:
Mount Juliet touring professional Kevin Phelan wants to regain his putting touch from the 2012 Interpros at Royal County Down today.
The Waterford Castle man opened with a three-over 74 but, while he was pleased with the way he hit the ball, he was miffed about taking 32 putts.
“If I can get a few putts to go in, I’ll be fine,” said Phelan, who won five points out of six for the winning Munster team three years ago.
“I find with links greens they are quite flat so the break are pretty subtle and it is hard to see them at times.
“In the interpros they were easy to read. Hopefully tomorrow we will read and putt them a bit better.”
Clarke of the course:
The par-three seventh took its toll on the field with the morning wave alone playing the 144-yard gem in 3.3.
There were just four birdies with Darren Clarke making one of his few decent clubbing decisions with a cut up seven iron into a stiff right to left wind.
Apart from that it was forgettable stuff from the European Ryder Cup captain, who blamed himself and his caddie for the six bogeys in his four-over 75.
“Didn’t hit well,” Clarke said. “Got a lot of clubs wrong between the caddy and myself and didn’t putt well. All in all, pretty poor day.”
Hoey’s big dipper:
Michael Hoey was feeling chipper after his level-par 71 in the morning squalls but wasn’t so keen on a dip in Dundrum Bay. The former British Amateur and Irish Amateur Open champion must be regarded as a dark horse but he’s not getting ahead of himself and certainly going nowhere near the sea.
“The forecast was always a bit mixed today, but that’s what you get when you’re by the sea,” Hoey said. “I mean one hole we were walking down the edge of the coast there and the sea looked good enough to go in, and then five minutes later it really didn’t.”
Not likely. Darren Clarke’s birdie at the seventh was a rarity and there were few walking off that green with a smile.
“Like everybody I’ve got a sad story — double bogey on the 7th,” Paul McGinley said as just seven players in the morning wave broke par around RCD.
“Hit an eight iron in the middle of a squally shower and it ballooned in the air and came down in the rough short of the green,” he said.
“Horrendous lie, could barely move it, knocked it into the bunker and didn’t get up and down. It’s a brutal hole.”
Graeme McDowell three-putted from just off the back for bogey and went further than “brutal”.
“In these conditions, this course is a beast, borderline evil in this type of wind,” McDowell said. “This is raw, this is what it’s all about. This is proper Open Championship conditions.”
Run ends for Lowry
: A bogey-free run for Shane Lowry, pictured, ended after 61 holes on Royal County Down’s par-four eighth. The 2009 Irish Open champion tied for sixth in the BMW PGA at Wentworth last week by following an opening 74 with three immaculate rounds. After a bogey at the 18th on Thursday, he went 61 consecutive holes without error before taking five at the 429-yard eighth yesterday.
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