Rory McIlroy endures another frustrating day at Irish Open

Erik van Rooyen leads at Ballyliffin but there is a strong chasing pack in hot pursuit

Rory McIlroy struggled again on the greens in the third round. Photo: Craig Brough/Reuters

Rory McIlroy struggled again on the greens in the third round. Photo: Craig Brough/Reuters

 

A curious old day on the northern tip of the island, where sunshine mixed with squally showers - yes, actual real rain - on moving day in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the Glashedy Links saw a springbok bound through the sand hills to take control.

As Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry again endured miserable times with the putter in hand, failing to make any upwards movement on the leaderboard, 28-year-old South African Erik Van Rooyen - seeking a breakthrough win on the European Tour - shot a third round 66 for 14-under-par 202 to take a four stroke lead.

McIlroy holed a putt for birdie from off the green on the first. But if that perhaps raised hopes of an improved performance with the putter, it was to be a false dawn: having taken 32 putts on Thursday and 34 on Friday, McIlroy needed 30 for the remaining 17 holes. That’s a total of 96 putts through three rounds: to put that in contrast, he needed just 100 in total over four rounds when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in April.

Erik van Rooyen celebrates a birdie on the 7th hole during the third round of the Irish Open at Ballyliffin. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Erik van Rooyen celebrates a birdie on the 7th hole during the third round of the Irish Open at Ballyliffin. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Of his travails with the putter, McIlroy - who shot a 72 for 215, one-under, and a distant tied-33rd in the field - acknowledged: “I think it’s almost to the point where you need to start caring less about whether the putt goes in or not and just make a good stroke. If it goes in, great, and if it doesn’t, it’s not really a different result than you’ve had the last few holes. It’s almost just a little more freedom in it.”

With any hope of making a weekend charge gone, and the Open at Carnoustie now just a fortnight away, McIlroy said: “I just need to work a little bit. I worked the last couple days. I’ve sort of just got a little bit of a left in my stroke at the minute and it’s quite similar to what my golf swing is doing at the minute. I’m dragging the club left at impact and same with the putting. I need to try to release it straight down the line a little bit more and if I do that and I start to hit putts on line, hopefully they will start going in.”

Lowry’s bid to ignite his tournament also fell flat, as he signed for a 74 for 216 to share 41st place with Simon Thornton. In talking of taking a number of “sloppy” bogeys in his round to fall well off the pace, the Offalyman - dark clouds forming - said: “I’m just disappointed and annoyed and I just want to get out of here to be honest.”

Symptomatic of the disappointing Irish challenge on home terrain as that Paul Dunne - 72 for 217, one-over - and Graeme McDowell, 74 for 217, failed in their efforts to move up the leaderboard.

But there were some who sought to trend upwards on the leaderboard. Jon Rahm, the defending champion, shot a 67 for 210 to manoeuvre his way into the top-10 while former Masters champion Danny Willett - seeming rejuvenated and with some of his old vigour - had four birdies in a row on the back nine to get moving in the right direction in signing for a 69 for 207.

Rahm has an eight shot deficit to make up if he is to retain his title. Unlikely as that would seem, the Spaniard provided some food for thought for the leader: “It’s a course where you can shoot low but you have to play really good and it’s not easy to defend a lead, especially if somebody is coming from behind making some birdies.”

Danny Willett could be the redemption story on the final day at Ballyliffin. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Danny Willett could be the redemption story on the final day at Ballyliffin. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

But it was Van Rooyen - like an express train - who sped clear of everyone. With a win on the Challenge Tour (from which he graduated last year) and on his home Sunshine Tour, this is new territory for the South African who shot a 66 for a 14-under-par 54-hole total of 202, four shots clear of his chief pursuers Joakim Lagergren and Ryan Fox.

Van Rooyen did all of the damage on the front nine, as he covered the stretch in just 29 strokes: his bogey-free effort included six birdies and, although he cooled down on the homeward run, reeling off nine successive pars his 66 moved him into a commanding four stroke lead.

Collated third round scores & totals in the European Tour Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted By The Rory Foundation, Ballyliffin GC, Inishowen, County Donegal (Britain unless stated, Irish in bold, par 72)

202 Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 71 65 66

206 Ryan Fox (Nzl) 67 69 70, Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 69 68 69

207 Danny Willett 68 70 69

208 Russell Knox 71 69 68

209 Matthieu Pavon (Fra) 68 68 73, Lee Westwood 68 71 70, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 71 70 68

210 Peter Uihlein (USA) 70 70 70, Andy Sullivan 73 72 65, Jon Rahm (Spa) 74 69 67, Jorge Campillo (Spa) 70 71 69, Zander Lombard (Rsa) 70 68 72

211 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 72 69 70, George Coetzee (Rsa) 71 71 69, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 69 74 68

212 Sam Horsfield 69 69 74

213 Adrien Saddier (Fra) 68 76 69, Dean Burmester (Rsa) 71 70 72, Mikko Ilonen (Fin) 70 72 71, Alexander Bjork (Swe) 69 73 71, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 72 68 73, Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn) 69 72 72, Oliver Fisher 74 68 71

214 Robert Rock 68 77 69, Matthew Nixon 72 69 73, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 72 70 72, Ashley Chesters 68 73 73, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spa) 71 71 72, Darren Fichardt (Rsa) 72 72 70, Richard Sterne (Rsa) 75 68 71, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 73 70 71

215 Chris Wood 70 71 74, David Horsey 74 69 72, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 74 70 71, Aaron Rai 72 71 72, David Drysdale 76 69 70, Julian Suri (USA) 76 67 72, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 70 73 72, Benjamin Hebert (Fra) 72 73 70

216 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 70 73 73, Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 71 73 72, Charlie Ford 73 72 71, Matthew Southgate 72 71 73, Peter Hanson (Swe) 71 73 72, Adam Bland (Aus) 76 69 71, Marc Warren 70 74 72, Shane Lowry (Irl) 72 70 74, Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 74 70 72, Simon Thornton (Irl) 72 70 74

217 Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 71 73 73, Haydn Porteous (Rsa) 73 71 73, Renato Paratore (Ita) 75 67 75, James Morrison 73 70 74, Scott Jamieson 69 74 74, Felipe Aguilar (Chi) 72 71 74, Paul Dunne (Irl) 73 72 72, Adrian Otaegui (Spa) 69 74 74

218 Richie Ramsay 70 74 74, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 73 71 74, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa) 74 71 73, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 73 72 73

219 Ricardo Gouveia (Prt) 73 71 75, Romain Wattel (Fra) 72 72 75, Paul Waring 71 71 77, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 70 73 76, Andrew Dodt (Aus) 74 71 74, Julien Guerrier (Fra) 76 69 74, Nacho Elvira (Spa) 69 74 76

220 Daniel Brooks 74 71 75, Matteo Manassero (Ita) 72 72 76, Gregory Bourdy (Fra) 71 73 76, Jens Dantorp (Swe) 72 71 77, Bradley Dredge 72 73 75

221 Jin-ho Choi (Kor) 69 74 78

223 Andres Romero (Arg) 70 75 78

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