McIlroy fights against further frustrations

 

royal lytham

Another one gone. Another major championship without Rory McIlroy contending for the title. It must be a crisis for the record-breaking US Open champion from 2011.

Of course, it is not. There will be many more chances for the 23-year-old from Holywood, but try telling him that yesterday afternoon. Well before the leaders had set out for their third rounds, McIlroy had returned a 73 to be five over par.

"Every tournament or every major that you don't play well in or you don't win is a chance missed, you know," McIlroy said.

Conditions were ideal for the early starters yesterday but many of the holes were cut so close to the subtle slopes in the greens that those who just made the cut and needed to make up ground found it difficult to do so. McIlroy had only one birdie, at the short par-four 16th, where he drove just in front of the green and got up and down from the rough.

Before that it was a long grind as he dropped four strokes by the 12th.

He was heading in the wrong direction and looked frustrated.

"I am frustrated," he confirmed. "I was up for it this morning, trying to go out there and post a score. But after playing the front nine like I did you're just trying to shoot the best score you can. And for me today it was only a 73."

The world No 2 had started the week brightly with a 67 but went into reverse on Friday with a 75. "It was good on the first day but then all of a sudden I just started not to trust it yesterday afternoon. It just sort of spiralled from there. When you are not confident in the shots you are trying to hit, it is tough to trust it."

McIlroy has not had much to trust in his game all summer long. His spell of brilliantly consistent top finishes from last autumn to early spring, a run that made him briefly the world's best player, is long gone. Every-thing, from his celebrity girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, to his work ethic, has been blamed for the recent dip.

Although McIlroy said a while ago that he had "taken his eye off the ball", he is certainly working hard now. He must be, since he was alongside one of the game's hardest workers on the practice range on Friday night.

Padraig Harrington was also trying to find something in his game for the third round. He was the first to admit he failed.

"I hit a beautiful tee shot on the first and a beautiful second shot at the second and that was my day," he said. He dropped a stroke at the last for a 70 that left him at two over par. "A 70 for me today was a steal, a 69 would have been a miracle."

Harrington has had his own struggles since the glory days of his double Open wins in 2007-08. His preferred warm-up event for next month's USPGA would be the World Championship event at Bridgestone.

Without a high finish here he will likely not have enough world ranking points to qualify, and instead will go to a second-tier event. "I always play the week before a major, so it's the biggest little city in America, here I come, Reno-Tahoe."

This was the first time the two Irishmen had played together in a major, and Harrington admitted watching the youngster intently. "We were both looking for a fast start this morning," he said.

"I had a few breaks early on but things went against him and it is not much fun when you are two, three over par and you're looking to be four or five under."

No, no fun at all, but McIlroy need only look to the man from Dublin to see that perseverance has its rewards.

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