Weather plays havoc on marathon Irish Open day
Play finally suspended for the day at 8.30pm as McIlroy hits the front at the K Club
A Weather Warning is announced as play is suspended during the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Sight of the day, or evening? For sure it had to be the poor bodyguard - with full backpack - attempting to keep up with Rory McIlroy, as the golfer out-sprinted him back to the clubhouse from the 16th tee as the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open finally came to a halt after a stop-start day of a third round.
If there was some unfinished business left for McIlroy, it was of the kind that had him licking his lips in anticipation: the 25-year-old Northern Irishman, the tournament host, will restart his quest for a first Irish Open title - to add to his considerable CV - at 7.30am tomorrow morning with a three shot lead over US Masters champion Danny Willett.
McIlroy did what he could and what he had to do in the time allotted to him by Mother Nature, as the thunderstorms which visited the Co Kildare venue - causing two long disruptions in play - left players unsure of whether they were coming or going. In the end, the final siren of a long, long day came as McIlroy stood on the 16th tee box and ever-darker clouds and fading light brought an end to it all.
If a marketer had dreamed up a concept for this Irish Open, it would have seen McIlroy, the four-time Major champion and tournament host, go into a head-to-head battle with the newest Major champion Willett. That is what has unfolded, but, increasingly, McIlroy’’s influence has extended beyond adding his backing to the tournament and being its poster boy to a position where he has the title within his reach.
“Rory looked very tired at the end,” remarked his playing partner, Englishman Matthew Southgate.
Tired, perhaps, and headed straight for the hotel, but invigorated too. McIlroy started out in pursuit of both Southgate and Willett and ended a long day at the course - with three warm-ups - in a position where he can become the first Irish winner since Shane Lowry claimed the title as an amateur in 2009.
On that day in Baltray, Lowry defied cold and rain and a disrupted tournament. Here, apparently in summer, McIlroy - and the rest of the field - has had to cope with conditions more akin to winter. So be it, for McIlroy adapted to the conditions to assume control and looks set to add the Irish Open to his roll-of-honour. He has also committed to donating his winnings back to charity, via The Rory Foundation.
Of the decision to sound the siren to halt play for a third and final time, McIlroy said: “I think they made the right call. It was getting dark out there. I struggled to read my putt on 15 and wasn’t really comfortable to hit the tee shot on 16. We can get back out there in the morning, I’ve got two par 5s on the last three holes to try and get another couple birdies.”
He added: “Today was a day to just hang in there and try not to make too many mistakes and that’s what I said I wanted to do today. No bogeys in 15 holes, that was good. I feel like I left a few out there, but at the same time, I can’t complain with a three-shot lead going into tomorrow.”