Rory McIlroy misses the cut as Harrington leads in Scotland

It’s a second consecutive missed cut for McIlroy as Harrington refinds his best

Rory McIlroy’s Open Championship preparation suffered its latest blow after the Northern Irishman missed the cut at the Scottish Open. Friday’s struggles in the second round mean he has failed to survive for back-to-back tournament weekends; his next start is the third major of the year, the Open, at Royal Birkdale from Thursday.

McIlroy was already under pressure in Scotland after a first round of two-over 74. When producing three birdies inside seven holes on Friday, his third-round place seemed secure. Yet the 28-year-old double-bogeyed the 13th for a second day in succession; his 71 meant a plus-one total and an early exit.

Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, appears to have summoned the spirit of Birkdale . With just days to go, at the location where the Irishman retained the Claret Jug in 2008, he marched out to nine-under par thanks to a second round of 68. "Anything that comes my way from here would be a bonus," he said. "I will win tournaments, that's for sure, but I'm not turning up trying to change my legacy."

Still, Harrington’s Scottish prominence is partly remarkable. Having undergone surgery on a neck problem in March, he subsequently feared for his career after a freak incident involving an amateur who was being given a lesson by the three-time major champion. Said amateur mistook the Irishman’s elbow for a golf ball. Harrington duly recovered from that injury but remains lightly raced owing to back-to-back fitness problems.

Meanwhile, Paul Dunne battled hard to recover from a disastrous first nine hole and go into the weekend just six off the lead.

The Greystones man started on the 10th – well placed at four under – but struggled with a bogey at the 12th followed by three consecutive dropped shots at the 14th, 15th and 16th. Out in 40 he was in real danger of missing the cut.

However, he composed himself to fight back and notch up birdies at the second, third and fifth to sign for an eventful 73 and three under par. Dunne will need two strong final rounds if he is to finish in the top 10 and secure a place at next week’s Open.

Graeme McDowell also managed to find the good round he needed to make the weekend and maintain the hope of securing a spot at Birkdale – he is in the same boat as Dunne – with five birdies and just a single bogey adding up to a 68 for one under par.

Adam Scott is four-under after a second round of 71. Matt Kuchar is two strokes better off after adding a 70 to Thursday's 68. "The course is very playable if you're hitting the ball well," he said. "But it also can beat you up. Those pot bunkers are kind of out there to gobble up some wayward drives, and there's enough of the rough to be troublesome." David Horsey's five-under aggregate was due in no small part to a hole-in-one at the 11th.

Darren Clarke withdrew before hitting a ball after feeling discomfort in a knee during a morning range session. The 2011 Open champion is, however, fully expected to tee up at Birkdale.

The tournament sponsor, meanwhile, has publicly backed off from the idea of Donald Trump’s course on the outskirts of Aberdeen hosting the 2019 Scottish Open by admitting “politics” would be problematic.

Martin Gilbert, Aberdeen Asset Management’s chief executive and a friend of the US president, is known to have been very keen to host the event at Trump International Golf links, with the European Tour far more uneasy about such a scenario.

“Trump, I don’t need to tell you, is a great golf course, but there are issues if we went there,” Gilbert said. “No decision has been made but look, there are clear issues, shall we say. Politics aside, Trump would be an ideal venue, but you can’t put politics aside. That is the issue so we will wait and see.”

Despite a series of European Tour fact-finding visits to Trump International, Cruden Bay has now emerged as an alternative site.

(Guardian service)

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