It was a tough day at the office for Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy’s homecoming did not go to plan as the Holywood native shot a nine-over-par 80 in his first round at Royal County Down.
McIlroy came into the event having missed the cut in the BMW PGA Championship, the four-time major winner slumping to a second round of 78 in the defence of his title.
And despite insisting he felt refreshed after an unexpected weekend off, the 26-year-old carried on where he left off at Wentworth by covering his first nine holes in 41.
Starting on the back nine, McIlroy – who has pledged to donate his prize money this week to his charitable foundation – missed from 15 feet for birdie on the 10th and then bogeyed the 11th after his approach from the rough bounded through the green.
A birdie looked on the cards when McIlroy came up just short of the par-five 12th in two, but he three-putted from long range and things went from bad to worse with four bogeys in succession from the 15th, including further three putts on the 16th and 18th.
That left McIlroy five over par and joint 74th of the 78 morning starters, with a third missed cut in succession in the Irish Open already a distinct possibility.
A hold-up in play allowed a smiling McIlroy and US Open champion Martin Kaymer to discuss how they were both five over par as they waited on the fourth tee, but that soon became six over for McIlroy after he missed the green on the long par three.
And when a clumsy chip from right of the fifth green led to a seventh bogey of the day, McIlroy found himself joint last with England's Simon Dyson on seven over par.
Incredibly, things would get even worse for McIlroy with back-to-back bogeys on his 16th and 17th holes of the day, leaving him languishing at nine over at the end of his round.
"It was not quite as difficult as I made it look," admitted McIlroy after an opening round played in cold, blustery conditions and the occasional rain shower.
"It's disappointing because I want to go out there and play well, not just for myself but for a lot of other people. I'll just have to pick myself up and go out there tomorrow and shoot a good one.
"My goal will be to make some birdies, make my first birdie of the tournament at some point.
"I want to give them something to cheer about and not just get sympathy claps as I got coming off the ninth green.
"I felt like I put myself in good positions off the tee but I was caught between trying to play two ways. I was hitting it well on the range, keeping it down and hitting half shots, but the wind was not up that much on the course and that led to missing greens, which led to lots of eight to 12-foot putts for par, which led to missing all of them."
Danny Willett and Soren Kjeldsen are the club house leaders on -2.