Rory McIlroy made all of the headlines on Day 1 of the Irish Open—but for all of the wrong reasons. The world No. 1 shot a catastrophic nine-over 80 in tough conditions at the County Down Golf Club on Thursday.
The four-time major winner’s fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington leads the way after shooting an excellent four-under par round of 67; Maximilian Kieffer is alongside the veteran after he got off to an excellent start. Soren Hansen is just one back after an admirable round of 68.
Here’s a look at how the leaderboard is shaping up at the end of a dramatic day in Northern Ireland:
|Day 1 Leaderboard|
|Position||Player||Day 1 Score||Overall|
Harrington Soars As Rory’s Struggles Continue
The words “Rory” were emblazoned all over this golf course on Day 1, with the 26-year-old’s foundation hosting the tournament. But in terms of the leaderboards erected around this illustrious links venue, McIlroy’s name was nowhere to be seen.
As we can see here, courtesy of the European Tour’s official Twitter feed, the players were really struggling in tough conditions in the morning:
After failing to make the cut at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last weekend, many were expecting McIlroy to shine on home soil. But he hit nine bogeys in an awful round, leaving him at the bottom of the leaderboard for much of the day and facing the prospect of missing the weekend for a second successive competition.
Speaking with Sky Sports 4 (via SkySports.com) afterward, McIlroy felt that his major problems came when playing into, around and on the greens:
I felt off the tee it was OK and got myself in some decent positions, then closer to the green the worse I got. I didn’t hit very many good iron shots and then with my putting my speed was off; I wasn’t reading them properly.
I just lost confidence to the greens as the round went on. I was trying to birdie the last just trying to avoid breaking 80 but it didn’t quite happen.
McIlroy wasn’t the only illustrious name to struggle in difficult conditions. Playing alongside the tournament host was U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, and he could only muster a disappointing effort of 79.
As noted by sports journalist Paul Mahoney, Rickie Fowler, who completed the group, did superbly to shoot a level-par round with the carnage that was going on around him:
In truth, those players who went out later in the day had much better conditions to work with, and Harrington was one who fully capitalised. The Irishman may not have had the best of times in recent years, but there were glimpses of the man that’s won three major titles in an eventful round.
Harrington shot seven birdies and three bogeys on his way to a 67 for the day. As we can see here, the 43-year-old was in brilliant form on the back nine:
It’ll be intriguing to see whether or not the Irishman can preserve these levels as the week rolls on, especially with some classy players hot on his heels.
Kieffer finished very strongly in the final group—a measure of how the weather turned favourable later in the day. The German was on course to take the lead one hole from the end of his round, but a dropped shot on the eighth left him level with Harrington.
Hansen will also be a threat, and the Dane was arguably the most consistent man out on the golf course on Day 1, dropping just one shot on his way to a three-under start.
Danny Willett is just two shots back, and the Englishman has established himself as something of a links specialist with some strong showings in recent tournaments. He was out early on in the day and admitted that the weather made things tough for the players:
McIlroy certainly has a super-low round in his locker, but at this juncture, he seems a long way short of the player who triumphed with a swagger at the Wells Fargo Championship just a fortnight ago. The world No. 1 has played a lot of golf, and now, another weekend off may well be a blessing in disguise.
Harrington is a popular co-leader and a player who will sate the home crowds who were desperate to see an effervescent Irishman top the leaderboard. But after an opening day which sprung many a surprise, expect twists and turns aplenty over the next three days at the County Down course.