IT says everything about Rory McIlroy’s fortunes this week that the only encouragement he can salvage from this Open is the fact that he was one under par for the final ten holes of his “disappointing” two rounds.
The fact that he was already 12 over for the championship by that stage meant that the cheeky wee fist pump when he birdied the 17th hole was more tongue in cheek than hugely significant.
It was his way of bringing some humour to situation, where if he couldn’t muster a wry smile, he might cry. They crowd lapped it up, responding with a raucous roar. It was the kind of support he had experienced throughout his doomed Open display. On the opening day, he sensed desperation from the hordes of followers who were willing an upturn in form. Yesterday, though, he believed a different emotion prevailed.
“It was a bit like sympathy out there,” he conceded. “But it was nice, obviously they were willing me to play well and it’s obviously disappointing to not be here for the weekend – it’s good to play in front of these crowds.”
It is the first time he has missed a cut at the only British major and while he was far from thrilled to be missing out on the weekend action, he insisted he could not be too disappointed with himself as he “had done everything he could; it just didn’t work out”.
“I needed to get off to a fast start to have any chance of being here for the weekend. I was 5-over through seven holes, so that didn’t really happen, but after that I just decided to try and practice for the next few weeks coming up. I still wanted to get something out of it, those last ten holes. I wanted to at least say, okay, I’m going to work towards building up for the next tournament.”
His next competitive action is now the World Golf Championships –Bridgestone Invitational, in Akron, Ohio in the first week of August, and with that in mind he tested out the driver, with the kind of improved results which could offer some hope.
“I hit driver, because driver is going to be very important around Akron. And I hit some good drives out there. And by the looks of it I should have probably hit driver everywhere this week. It might have done me better.”
And he is looking forward to a busier schedule to see if he can remedy the ills of his current form. “I think when I’m struggling with my game, I think it’s better to play my way out of it and that’s something I haven’t really done this year.” He won’t get the opportunity to do it this weekend either.
His on-course struggles left him as the most high profile casualty of a course and competition that pummels failings. But he wasn’t the only well-known figure heading home earlier than anticipated. US Open champion and one of the pre-tournament favourites Justin Rose sloped away with a 10 over par tally for his two days. He had started the day four over, but with two double bogeys and three bogeys, the last of those coming in front of the grandstand at the 18th, he plummeted down the standings, his solitary birdie of the day nowhere near good enough to help him beat the cut.
The exit of Luke Donald was more expected after a horrendous opening score had left him on the back foot. Nine over on Thursday, yesterday he showed significant improvement but still failed to make par, adding another three bogeys on the back nine to overshadow his two birdies on the route out.
It was a bitter blow for the 35-year-old former World No 1, who had finished in the top 10 last year but has yet to win a major. He was joined by his Ryder Cup team-mate Nicolas Colsaerts, who imploded on the 15th green, six-putting to take a nine at the par 4 and blight what would otherwise have been a level par round and afforded him the chance to see out the weekend.