This was not a day to go chasing miracles. Neither the course nor the weather would support it and so for the second week in succession Rory McIlroy fell the wrong side of the cut line on this side of the Atlantic to take his leave of the Irish Open.
On the plus side, it was by no means the kind of disaster that has visited McIlroy in the past. On Friday he had a respectable round, two under through 14 holes which, had he posted that score on the opening day, would have placed him in the lead. Since he started nine over, it barely made a dent in the demand, and a double-bogey at 15 sealed his fate.
There would then be no extra cash from the McIlroy prize fund, but with his charitable organisation, the Rory Foundation, receiving well over six figures this week, and packed galleries filing through the gates of Royal County Down, the experience can hardly be described as a disaster.
“I felt like I played OK. It’s hard in conditions like this to take advantage.
“I was trying as hard as I could but couldn’t get any momentum. I was a couple under through 15 but left myself too much to do. The support of the fans has been phenomenal. It’s the third year in a row they won’t get to see me over the weekend, so I’m disappointed for them,” McIlroy said.
With only nine players under par and the cut mark falling at five over, there was no need for McIlroy to reproach himself on Friday’s display. His head never dropped, as it did in his early days, and there is no sense of crisis ahead of his next event, the US Open at Chambers Bay in three weeks.
Indeed his level-par 71, secured by a 15-footer for par at the last, was good enough to vault him 47 places up the leaderboard. Hennie Otto, a winner on the European Tour, shot an 86, as did American Jonathan Moore, who finished dead last on 21 over par.
As joint host of the event, McIlroy indicated his intention to stay for the coming two days rather than bolt home to Florida immediately, another indication of the general health of his game and attitude.
Luke Donald was among those with reasons to be cheerful. A second successive 70 left him one off the lead on two under par alongside Padraig Harrington, who shot a 73 after leading overnight. Donald claimed last week at Wentworth that his form is beginning to turn. It is hard to believe he will face conditions any more trying than this, so whatever happens over the coming days, he has a platform from which to go forth with welcome confidence.
A birdie at the last allowed Graeme McDowell to follow Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke into the weekend on the cut mark, giving the home crowd two more of their own to support. McDowell is also enduring a frustrating period trying to relocate the keys to a game good enough to make him a major winner at the US Open five years ago.
With the event returning to the west coast, albeit a thousand miles further north in Seattle, this would be a good time for McDowell to reboot the zeitgeist.
Chris Wood signed for a fine 69 late in the day to become the second Englishman in a six-man group sharing the lead on three under par. The other, Tyrrell Hatton, secured his spot in the Irish Open vanguard with a magnificent 66, the lowest score of the second round.Reuse content