Rory McIlroy crashes out of Royal County Down on home soil
AS tournament host and fans favourite Rory McIlroy crashed out of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Championship, at Royal County Down yesterday evening, there is an international traffic jam teeing off this morning, at the top of the leaderboard.
Dane Soren Kjeldsen, Englishmen Chris Wood and Tyrrell Hatton, Spaniard Raffa Cabrere-Bello, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Scot Richie Ramsay are tied together on three-under-par, one stroke ahead of leading Irishman Pdraig Harrington and Luke Donald from England.
Dark horses often gallop into the limelight in this tournament and there is certainly a herd of them ready for the weekend gallop over the final two rounds.
Wiesberger, with an eagle at the 18th, his ninth hole, and four birdies put his disappointment of last weeks PGA Championship at Wentworth behind him.
I stayed at Wentworth over the weekend and did some good work on my game. I drove the ball well today and the back nine was the best I have played for a long time, he said.
Both he and Kjeldsen are enjoying their best form for a long time but, not so, world number one McIlroy.
This is his second missed cut in two weeks and his third in-a-row at the Irish Open.
Naturally, he was disappointed. After his shock opening 80 on Thursday be added a regulation 71 yesterday but he needed a 67 to be around for the weekend.
I tried as hard as I could but I gave myself too much to do after my 80 on Thursday, said McIlroy.
I couldnt get the momentum going and Im more disappointed for the fans than for myself as they have been terrific. I ground away but I just couldnt get back into the hunt, really.
This tournament has come in the wrong place in the schedule for me as it is my third week in-a-row and Im now looking forward to a few weeks off before the US Open. But I wasnt looking for this weekend off.
Birdies were few and far between for McIlroy. He began with six straight pars before making his first birdie of the championship at the short seventh hole.
That left him out in one-under 34 with two pars to follow before his second, and last, birdie of the contest, a four at the long 12th hole.
The writing was on the wall for the tournament host when he double-bogeyed the par four 15th, his only dropped shots of the day.
That left me with a lot of work to do and I was chasing it from there. I needed birdies and they didnt fly in. Three pars to the finish werent good enough, he said.
Many people, including his playing colleagues, suggested that being host and promoter of the Irish Open meant that a lot of weight was on his shoulders but he would not agree that was a factor in his failure to produce the goods.
Last night, he headed home to Holywood but said he would be back over the weekend to meet with people, even though it will be difficult to see the others out playing. He will be there for the presentation tomorrow evening.
Only six Pdraig Harrington (above), Paul McGinley, Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Simon Thornton of the 22 Irish starters made the cut as 68 players survived.