Rory McIlroy’s problems were a little closer to home this week as his failure to make the cut at the Irish Open raised some very serious questions about his ability to win the upcoming British Open at Muirfield, the penultimate major of the golfing season.
A year beset by erratic form, speculation about his private and business life and problems with his clubs since a megabucks move to Nike didn’t get any better for McIlroy in Co. Kildare last week.
Not alone did he miss the cut at Carton House on Friday, he was also forced to field a barrage of questions about his decision not to play a competitive round again until the 2013 Open at Muirfield which tees off on Thursday, July 18.
The 24-year-old, reportedly on rocky ground in his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, did hang around Carton for the weekend to take advantage of the practice facilities at the Irish Open venue.
And he was in good company as fellow home favorites Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley missed the cut.
It was McIlroy’s poor form in shooting a first round 74 and a second round 72 that prompted most of the debate in Irish golfing circles over the weekend. And he is clearly struggling to drive the ball with his new Nike clubs.
Asked after Friday’s second round if he can and will sort it all out in time for the British Open, a candid McIlroy said, “I’m fine, I’m okay, I’m more disappointed for the Irish Open tournament than myself. It’s not great, but it’s just the way it is and it’s golf. You have good weeks and you have bad weeks.
“Today I saw the positive side, so I’m not too disappointed. If I had of shot a better score yesterday or just a little sharper around the greens today it would be a different story.
“I’m still confident in my ability to hit the golf ball and hit good shots. I guess your confidence comes with seeing good shots and seeing putts go in the hole and shooting good rounds and getting good results.
“I guess in that way, from the results point of view, it’s not great, but from being on the golf course and seeing some good shots, I’m definitely more positive today than I was yesterday.”
Sponsor commitments and a promise to attend a cousin’s wedding mean McIlroy won’t play again until Muirfield.
He insisted, “I’ll be fine. It isn’t really ideal and I guess it would be nice to play another event. If I did not have those commitments I probably would, but as long as I play rounds and be competitive myself -- play with one ball -- it’s the same sort of thing,
“I’ll go and spend a few days at Muirfield and play and try and shoot score, that’s the same sort of thing. My schedule has been light, but from the Open onwards I am playing seven events in nine or 10 weeks. I still have a lot of golf to play.
“Two weeks is a lot of time to try and get something right and hopefully I will be ready for Muirfield.”
Part of McIlroy’s schedule this week centers on a meeting with Nike to find a driver that suits him.
He added, “It was a new driver in the bag at Carton but it’s still not 100 percent so I will be testing next week, but it’s definitely more swing than it is club. I’ll hit one really good and the next not so much. That’s a combination of maybe the driver not being 100 percent right for me, and my swing not being where it should be.
“It’s definitely more swing than it is club. If I was swinging my best, I would stand up and hit sort of any shot that I want to hit.”
England’s Paul Casey got back into the winner’s enclosure with a three shot victory over compatriot Robert Rock and Holland’s Joost Luiten in the Irish Open.
Shane Lowry from Offaly and Ulsterman Gareth Shaw were best of the Irish, tied fifth.