Rory McIlroy’s putting woes showed no signs of abating as another day of superb ball striking resulted in a disappointing round of level par to end his hopes of a second Irish Open victory.
In front of a huge gallery, needing birdies, and plenty of them, McIlroy took a much more aggressive approach, hitting driver on all but two of the par-fours, leaving himself little more than wedge on most holes.
Despite missing short putts on two and three, McIlroy was two-under through six and three-under overall. Sadly, that was as good as it got for the Holywood man, missing short putts at seven, eight, nine, ten and twelve.
Having failed to take advantage of the par-5 13th, McIlroy raised his hands in mock celebration as a ten-footer at 16 finally dropped to take him back into red figures for the day, before wayward drives at the par-5 17th and par-4 18th resulted in a disappointing par-bogey finish.
Afterwards, McIlroy lamented the missed opportunities and the failure to close the gap on the tournament leaders. “It feels like this golf course, you should go out and shoot five or six-under par every day, but it’s a little trickier than that, and yeah, it’s tough walking off the course with even par when you’ve given yourself loads of chances.”
On his putting, Rory admitted the frustration was beginning to take its toll. “Yeah, it’s tough. I think it’s almost to the point where you need to start caring less about whether the putt goes in or not and just make a good stroke. If it goes in, great, and if it doesn’t, it’s not really a different result than you’ve had the last few holes.”
With light rain falling – and calm conditions once more – today was a day when a low score was possible as evidenced by Andy Sullivan’s early 65. Sullivan, out in the second group of the day, climbed 60 places to sit just two off the lead before the final groups had even set out.
McIlroy’s round was matched by Paul Dunne who earlier signed for a level-par 72 to remain one over along with Graeme McDowell who posted a second consecutive 73.
Shane Lowry and Simon Thornton – best of the Irish going into round three – failed to mount any serious challenge, both struggling on the greens, and ultimately signing for 74 to all but end Irish hopes of a home champion.
Lowry in particular endured a frustrating afternoon, having countered early bogeys made back-to-back birdies on seven and eight to get back to level for the round. “I made a very sloppy bogey on 9, but look, I don’t even want to talk through my round” a clearly downbeat Lowry said, “I’m just disappointed and annoyed and I just want to get out of here to be honest.”
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