The jinx is back. A year after lifting the title in spectacular fashion, Rory McIlroy - for the fourth time in five years - missed the midway cut in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open after a second round 73 for 145, one-over-par, left him with an unwanted free weekend.
McIlroy, the tournament host, has had a love/hate relationship in terms of how he has played in his own event in recent years . . . . but this latest missed cut, in a season disrupted by a rib stress fracture which forced two separate breaks away from competition, raised fresh concerns about the state of his game.
For a second successive round, McIlroy took 33 putts and only hit seven fairways to compound matters in a disjointed round.
“I’m seeing really positive stuff in practice and I am seeing positive stuff when I am out playing but then, when I get into tournament situations, it is all there but it is about putting pieces together and I’m not able to put them together when I’ve been out on the golf course the last couple of days,” he said.
“It is the simple things I haven’t been doing well and golf becomes so much easier when you do the simple things well . . . . and the simple things I haven’t been able to do, and that makes it tougher no matter who you are,” said the 28-year-old Northern Irishman, who will move on to next week’s Scottish Open as his final tournament ahead of the British Open at Royal Birkdale.
McIlroy was within touching distance of surviving the cut as he approached his closing stretch, but a bogey at the sixth, a failure to birdie the Par 5 seventh and then a double bogey at the eighth, his penultimate hole, left him missing a fourth cut in the Irish Open in five years: MC (2013), MC (2014), MC (2015), WIN (2016), MC (2017). It is, indeed, an extraordinary sequence.
But McIlroy’s continued struggles are a major concern heading into meat of the summer season, with the Open only a fortnight away and the US PGA next month at Quail Hollow where he is a two-time career winner of the Wells Fargo.
Whilst McIlroy struggled, he found time to offer a pat on the back to Greystones golfer Paul Dunne who recorded a second round 69 for 135, eight-under-par, to move into contention. He turned a disappointing front nine, which included a failure to birdie either of the Par 5s, the 13th and 14th, and then a poor bogey on the 16th, into a solid effort that saw him move up the leaderboard with back-to-back birdies on the second and third.
“I felt I hit it better than I did yesterday, certainly the conditions at the start were much tougher. It was a cold, strong wind for the first six holes but I controlled my ball better off the tee and capitalised on my chances better once I relaxed,” said Dunne.
American Daniel Im continued his love affair with the links, adding a second round 67 to his opening 64 to set the midway clubhouse target on 131, 13-under-par, with Spain's Jon Rahm a shot behind.