ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Rory McIlroy still hasn’t scored in the 70s around the Old Course as a professional.
If he’d managed that in the second round instead of an 80, he’d have a better chance of winning his first major. Instead, he’s hoping those above him falter to let him back into the championship.
McIlroy’s 63-80 combination was not only a shock, it was the biggest turnaround in scores at a British Open since Rod Pampling added an 86 to his opening 71 at Carnoustie in 1999.
At least McIlroy will be around for the weekend. Pampling missed the cut 11 years ago.
The 21-year-old Northern Irishman had the class to face the music, the press, after one of his worst days in golf. He even managed a little gallows humor.
“I two-putted the last for a good 80,” McIlroy quipped about his par on the final hole.
McIlroy is used to playing in windy conditions on links courses. He grew up in Northern Ireland on layouts such as Royal Portrush and Royal County Down. He holds the course record at the former, firing a 61 in the 2005 North of Ireland Open.
He’d have been happy with a score 10 shots worse than that in Round 2.
McIlroy parred the first three holes before strong winds suspended play. Afterward, he looked like a different golfer. He played the last 15 holes in 8-over par.
“It was just a very, very difficult day out there,” he said. “I just let it get away from me a lot. I did well to par the last three holes because it could’ve been an 83.”
The delay of 1 hour, 5 minutes did nothing for McIlroy’s concentration, especially since he was quite content to play on.
“I don’t think they should have called us off the golf course,” he said. “It probably wasn’t a smart move.
“I felt as if I played the first three holes quite well, solid, and then they called us in. It might have a little bit to do with it. I’m not trying to make excuses.
“It was a lot of ups and downs. More downs than ups today. It was very tough. I was starting to get very frustrated.”
McIlroy’s body language gave proof to the hell he was going through. He seemed to be going through the motions when he missed a 2-foot putt at the 15th for another bogey.
By that time the damage had been done, though. Out in 40 with four bogeys in five holes, he then made a double-bogey 5 on the par-3, 11th, a hole made almost unplayable because of the gusting 30 mph winds.
McIlroy isn’t completely out of the tournament, but he knows his fate isn’t in his own hands. However, at 1-under par, he is 11 shots behind Louis Oosthuizen and six shots behind 1989 champion Mark Calcavecchia.
“If you take Louis (Oosthuizen) and Calc (Calcavecchia) out of it, then I’m only five shots out,” he said. “If the weather is quite calm, I feel as if I’ve got a chance to go low, even in a little bit of wind. But when it’s windy like this, you’re relying on other players to make mistakes.”
McIlroy desperately needs to get back to shooting scores in the 60s the next two rounds if he’s to have any chance of winning his first major.