Scottish Daily Mail

Rory exits again as McDowell moves in


Graeme mcDowell hopes it will be 13th time lucky in the Irish Open this weekend, as rory mcIlroy made an early exit from the event f or t he s econd y ear in succession.

mcDowell carded a second round of 66 to lie just two shots off the halfway lead held by Finland’s mikko Ilonen — who added a 68 to his opening course-record 64 — but ryder Cup team- mate mcIlroy could only manage an erratic 69 to miss the cut by a shot on one over.

‘ It’s very frustratin­g,’ said the former world No 1, who won the BmW PGa Championsh­ip at Wentworth last month.

‘To make six birdies and an eagle, and shoot just two under, means there were a lot of mistakes and wasteful shots.

‘To miss the cut for the second year in a row is not a nice position to be in.’

mcIlroy had to finish birdie-eagle to make the weekend and, although he holed from long range on the 17th and hit a brilliant escape from the trees on the last, he was unable to chip in from the front of the green.

‘I’m proud of how I fought out there and didn’t give up and tried for the last shot,’ added mcIlroy after his first missed cut on the european Tour in 2014.

‘I gave myself a chance to try to make the cut with the big birdie putt on 17 but it just wasn’t meant to be.

‘I just need to tighten it all up and become a lot more consistent, make the bad shots a little bit better and not be as wasteful around the greens.

‘If I can do that, I know my game is right there. I’ve got a couple of weeks off now to work on my game a little bit, play some links golf and get ready for the Scottish Open and The Open.’

mcDowell made his tournament debut when Fota Island last hosted the event in 2002 and finished 27th, but that was one of just six halfway cuts the former US Open champion has made in 12 appearance­s.

The 34-year-old has never recorded a top-10 finish but carded six birdies and one bogey to j oi n 2009 runner-up robert rock and France’s romain Wattel on eight under par.

‘There’s always a first time for everything,’ mcDowell joked.

‘I’ve been unhappy with my game now for a few months — really getting frustrated wi t h myself, in general, and trying to be a little too perfect.

‘ I tried to loosen myself up a bit and to enjoy my golf a little. I’m surprised and excited to be in contention.

‘Normally, there’s some pressure and expectatio­n in the Irish Open.

‘I think maybe coming off the US Open last week, with as much pressure , frustratio­n and expectatio­n as you feel there, perhaps that’s why I’m dealing with it a little bit better because it nearly feels like the proverbial walk in the park by comparison.

‘This is a fun game to play. We are very lucky to play it for a living — but last week bordered on the unenjoyabl­e because the golf course was so frustratin­gly difficult.

‘I’ve played in front of many big crowds before but maybe none as passionate as the Irish crowd here.

‘There’s nothing quite like it when a crowd is pulling for you and it’s a fun experience. It’s something I’ve never experience­d before, except perhaps at a ryder Cup.’

rock lost a play-off to Shane Lowry at County Louth in 2009 but claimed the first prize of 500,000 euros as Lowry was still an amateur, while he also finished fifth in 2006 and second to Paul Casey last year.

‘It’s a tournament I like playing but I think it’s more the time of year,’ rock said. ‘I enjoy the tournament­s at the start of the year (he held off Tiger Woods and mcIlroy to win in abu Dhabi in 2012) but, when we travel further afield, I don’t play well and it batters your confidence.

‘It takes time to rebuild that and it seems to be this time of year it comes back.’

Italian marco Crespi and english duo Simon Khan and matthew Nixon were three off the pace on seven under, Nixon coming home in 31 to card a 65, the joint-lowest score of the day.

‘I made a nice birdie on the first and then hit it straight in the water on the next,’ said Nixon, who was fourth in the NH Collection Open earlier this season. ‘I made double there and I thought this could be a long round of golf. I made some nice swings after that and, for once, my putts all went in.’ Nixon’s second shot to the par-four sixth also went in from 93 yards, moments after playing- partner mark Staunton had done the same from 120. ‘I’ve never seen that happen, it was quite nice,’ Nixon added. Three-time major-winner Pad ra ig Harrington was a shot further back after a 67, while english teenager matt Fi t z patrick made the cut in his first event as a profession­al on one under after a 69.

 ??  ?? In the thick of it: McIlroy and (below) McDowell
In the thick of it: McIlroy and (below) McDowell
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