His loss of form didn’t begin in Muirfield and it showed no signs of ending as Phil Mickelson finally won the British Open on Sunday, but Rory McIlroy’s plight was still the talk of the town as far as Irish golf fans were concerned.
As Mickelson, who first encountered links golf in Ireland and is an honorary member of the great Lahinch, clasped the Claret Jug close to his chest, McIlroy was already looking to the future.
He didn’t just miss the cut on Friday after dismal rounds of 79 and 75, he avoided it like the plague in a season where his shots total has gone up as quickly as his bank balance after that $150 million switch to Nike.
After admitting to feeling “brain dead” on the testing Muirfield links during the Open, McIlroy is now back in America and preparing to play his way out of his current troubles as he looks to defend his PGA Championship title in New York next month.
He told the world’s media gathered in Scotland, “I don’t know if I can single out one thing. I think it’s been a combination of things to be honest.
“I think the schedule hasn’t been quite right, the swing hasn’t been quite right. A combination of those has led to, I guess, sloppy play, not sharp enough.
“I’ve done everything I could. It just didn’t work out for me.”
“I’m going to look forward to Akron, four really good competitive rounds there. It’s a great prep for the PGA. It’s a place I’ve done well before.
“So going there, I’m really excited to just play four rounds of golf. There’s no cut!”
Two time major winner McIlroy, down to number three in the latest world rankings, will play six times in the next eight weeks as he looks to bring his current slump to an end.
He added, “I can’t really be disappointed in myself because I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong in terms of like under-preparing.
“I’ve done everything I could. It just didn’t work out for me. I guess I have a clearer picture of what I need to work on and what I need to do to put things right.
“Sometimes this game can feel further away than it actually is. And obviously at the end of Thursday’s round it couldn’t have felt much further away.”
He did throw caution to the wind on Friday when he knew his slim chances of making the cut had disappeared after eight holes.
McIlroy admitted, “I decided that I was going to hit driver every hole that I could because that’s going to be a big factor the next few weeks and I actually drove the ball pretty well. I ended up playing the last 11 holes under par.
“That was encouraging but obviously I was disappointed to be going home for the weekend. It’s the first time I’ve missed a cut at the Open so it’s obviously quite disappointing.”
McIlroy’s close friend Shane Lowry made the Muirfield cut thanks to a birdie at the 18th on Friday, then closed with an impressive one under 70 on Sunday as he got to grips with major golf.
The Clara native said afterwards, “Now I know I can win a major. I think, I definitely, definitely have the game to compete at tournaments like the Open where it is tough and it’s a grind.
“I am going away from this week knowing I can win one of these things one day. Like I said at the start of the week, I’m only 26 and I need to play in as many majors as I can. I want to play in them all.
“And I think in two, three, four years time I’ll be going into major championships trying to compete and trying to win them. I definitely think it’s good enough to happen, but I just think I need to get a bit more experience in them first.”
Former Open winner Darren Clarke was the top Irishman on seven over, while Graeme McDowell had a nightmare weekend with a closing 77 to finish 58th on 12 over.
A defiant McDowell said, “If you don’t walk away from this without learning something you have had a massive failure and I have learned plenty this week.
“I will be disappointed if I finish my career without giving myself a real good chance at one of these. I definitely think there is a Claret Jug in me somewhere. We’ll see, we’ll keep working.”
A final round 70 saw Padraig Harrington finish 54th on 11 over. Harrington will now play in the Reno-Tahoe Open in a bid to qualify for the big money on offer in the end of season FedEx Cup challenge after his Muirfield disappointment.
Harrington said, “The problem is that I made just six birdies at the Open and only six in the U.S. Open. That won’t cut it in Reno.”