Another dog day afternoon for Rory McIlroy

After missing cut at Portstewart, McIlroy still confident in his game and practice regime

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland waits on the 18th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland waits on the 18th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

 

We’re getting used to Hamlet proceeding without the Prince at these gigs. On a grey, cool day here on the Causeway Coast, Rory McIlroy – the principle character – exited stage left, the fourth time in the past five years that the tournament host of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open has missed the business end of affairs.

“It’s back to the drawing board and practice,” admitted a disappointed McIlroy, the man intended to be the star of the big show.

Only, McIlroy was not alone in departing the stage. Graeme McDowell, a son of this coast, inflicted damage of his own in compiling a double bogey on the 18th that also contrived to ensure he missed out (by one). A double whammy, of sorts; and the 18,789 spectators, some wrapped in winter woollies rescued from wardrobes, were left like lost souls wandering over the dunes.

In such instances, the casting director must look for new players to stand in to the role. And, in this 90th anniversary staging of the Irish Open, it was Paul Dunne, a player who has made an upward trajectory for most of this season – only his second on tour – who stepped in to lead the Irish challenge: the 24-year-old from Greystones in Co Wicklow shot a 69 for 136, eight-under-par, which left him five shots adrift of co-leaders Daniel Im and Benjamin Hebert.

Dunne was not alone and had some company in assuming the role of defender of the home cause. Pádraig Harrington was only a stroke behind him on 137, which could have been better only for a missed three-footer for birdie on the last; Gavin Moynihan, like Dunne a recent vintage, reached the midpoint on 138; and Shane Lowry, despite bogeying his closing two holes, sat on 139. Work to do, but at least all in position to chase on.

McIlroy’s departure, though, only served to put a further question mark on an injury-disrupted season that has provided few answers.

Afterwards, McIlroy’s sound bites were all too familiar, similar to what he has been saying for a couple of months since returning from the rib stress fracture that has already caused two separate breaks in the season so far.

“I need to play more.”

“I really need to get my game in order if I want to challenge (in tournaments).”

“I don’t feel like I’m that far away. I really don’t.”

“I think it’s really about staying patient.”

McIlroy talks to the media after failing to make the cut. Photo: Matt Mackey/Inpho
McIlroy talks to the media after failing to make the cut. Photo: Matt Mackey/Inpho

Patience, for sure, is a key component in getting back on track. So too self-belief, and McIlroy is determined to stick to the programme he has set out. “I don’t feel there’s so much wrong,” said McIlroy, adding: “I just have to stay at it and stay patient and keep practising. I feel I’m working on the right things . . . and need to stay on one path and not try to change ideas. You need to keep believing in what you are doing.”

Spain’s Jon Rahm, a man tempted each night of his stay on northern shores to opt for rare T-Bone steak on the menu, showed a measure of compassion for McIlroy. The young Spaniard played in the same group for two days as his friend and got a close-up view of McIlroy’s plight. “It’s tough when you see things not happening. In his case, I can think of 12 putts he hit perfectly that just caught the edge. It’s unbelievable that just one of those didn’t drop. Just one would have shifted the attitude completely,” said Rahm.

And some sympathy - and encouragement too - from Harrington for McIlroy. “In Rory’s case he obviously takes on a huge amount (as host), it does wear you down energy wise. If you were choosing a golf course for Rory to play on, this would not be the one. It is a pretty short, straight hitter coming in . . . nobody has the power and control to guarantee that things are going to happen for you. Even if you are the best player, it is too small a sample one tournament one week in the weather for everything to fall into place,” said the Dubliner.

The bottom line is that McIlroy has missed a fourth cut in five Irish Opens, and the Open at Royal Birkdale is just a fortnight away. McIlroy won’t have a scorecard in his hand this weekend, but the practice will continue in his search to find answers.

Collated Scores (Irish and Gbr unless stated) 
131 Daniel Im (USA) 64 67, Benjamin Hebert (Fra) 64 67 
132 Jon Rahm (Esp) 65 67 133 Ryan Fox (Nzl) 67 66, Matthew Southgate 65 68, Oliver Fisher 65 68 
134 Paul Peterson (USA) 67 67 
135 Anthony Wall 67 68, David Drysdale 66 69, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 67 68, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) 70 65  
136 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 68 68, Peter Uihlein (USA) 69 67, Stephen Gallacher 67 69, Paul Dunne 67 69, David Horsey 67 69, Jamie Donaldson 66 70, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) 67 69 
137 Haydn Porteous (Rsa) 71 66, Ashley Chesters 70 67, Andrew Dodt (Aus) 71 66, Lee Slattery 69 68, Dean Burmester (Rsa) 70 67, Justin Rose 67 70, Tommy Fleetwood 70 67, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 67 70, Adrian Otaegui (Esp) 68 69, Bradley Dredge 68 69, Padraig Harrington 68 69  
138 Richie Ramsay 68 70, Matteo Manassero (Ita) 72 66, Callum Shinkwin 68 70, Rikard Karlberg (Swe) 68 70, Felipe Aguilar (Chi) 67 71, Robert Karlsson (Swe) 69 69, Haotong Li (Chn) 68 70, Gavin Moynihan 67 71, Ian Poulter 68 70, Jordan Smith 69 69, Gregory Bourdy (Fra) 70 68, Thomas Detry (Bel) 70 68, Julien Quesne (Fra) 70 68, Marcus Fraser (Aus) 71 67, Matthew Fitzpatrick 66 72 
139 Scott Jamieson 70 69, Peter Hanson (Swe) 68 71, Scott Hend (Aus) 71 68, Duncan Stewart 67 72, Andres Romero (Arg) 68 71, Shane Lowry 68 71, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Esp) 69 70, Soomin Lee (Kor) 68 71  
140 Marcus Armitage 71 69, Joost Luiten (Ned) 71 69, Matthieu Pavon (Fra) 71 69, Nathan Kimsey 72 68, Romain Langasque (Fra) 69 71, Simon Dyson 68 72, Sam Walker 69 71, Andy Sullivan 72 68, Chris Hanson 70 70, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 71 69, Eduardo De La Riva (Esp) 70 70, Sam Brazel (Aus) 70 70, Michael Hoey 68 72 
141 Ricardo Gouveia (Por) 69 72, Richard Bland 68 73, Joel Stalter (Fra) 72 69, Paul Waring 68 73, Daniel Brooks 70 71, Damien Perrier (Fra) 72 69, Stuart Manley 69 72, Gary Stal (Fra) 68 73, Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 68 73, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 71 70, Marcel Siem (Ger) 70 71, Alejandro Canizares (Esp) 70 71, Alexander Knappe (Ger) 72 69, David Higgins 69 72, Richard Sterne (Rsa) 73 68  
142 Jens Fahrbring (Swe) 69 73, Hennie Otto (Rsa) 70 72, Lasse Jensen (Den) 73 69, Graeme McDowell 67 75, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 70 72, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 73 69, Renato Paratore (Ita) 70 72, Victor Dubuisson (Fra) 69 73, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 73 69, Paul Lawrie 69 73, David Lipsky (USA) 71 71, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 71 71, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 69 73 
143 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 69 74, Jorge Campillo (Esp) 73 70, Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 69 74, Ashun Wu (Chn) 72 71, Chris Paisley 75 68, Simon Khan 72 71, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 69 74, Florian Fritsch (Ger) 75 68, Richard Finch 72 71, Mark Foster 73 70, Alexander Levy (Fra) 73 70 
144 David Howell 74 70, José María Olazábal (Esp) 72 72, Magnus A Carlsson (Swe), 72 72, Robert Rock 70 74, Marc Warren 69 75, Thomas Aiken (RSA) 71 73, James Morrison 71    73, Bernd Ritthammer (Ger) 71    73, Nacho Elvira (Esp) 72 72, Neil O'Briain 72 72, Alexander Björk (Swe) 74 70, Dermot McElroy 70 74, Matt Wallace 71 73
145 Damien McGrane 76 69, Edoardo Molinari (Ita)  70 75, Graeme Storm 73 72, Mikko Ilonen (Fin) 69 76, Rory McIlroy 72 73, Simon Thornton 73 72, Johan Carlsson (Swe) 70 75, Romain Wattel (Fra) 71    74, Andrew Johnston 71 74, Tyrrell Hatton 75 70, Gary Hurley 69 76
146 Niclas Fasth (Swe) 73 73, Justin Walters (RSA) 74 72, George Coetzee (RSA) 72 74, SSP Chawrasia (Ind) 75 71, Richard Kilpatrick 74 72, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 73 73, 
147 Nino Bertasio (Ita) 69 78, Jason Scrivener (Aus)  70 77, Kristoffer Broberg (Swe) 72 75, Sebastian Heisele (Ger) 73 74
148  Grégory Havret (Fra) 74 74, Brett Rumford (Aus) 74 74, Colm Moriarty 71 77, Pep Angles (Esp) 76 72 
149 Darren Fichardt (RSA) 75 74, Trevor Immelman (RSA) 73 76, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 72 77, Lee Westwood 76    73, Alvaro Quiros (Esp) 75 74, Shih-Chang Chan (Tpe) 71    78, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 74 75, Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 76 73
150 José-Filipe Lima (Por) 76 74
152 Paul McGinley 76 76, Darren Clarke 74 78
154 Sébastien Gros (Fra) 82 72
Rtd Danny Willett
W/D Jaco Van Zyl (RSA) 

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