World No.1 Rory McIlroy’s Irish Open jinx continued in missing the cut-off mark for a third year in succession following a shock nine over total after Friday’s second round.
McIlroy saved some pride with a level par 71 but never recovered from his opening score of 80 on a continuing wind and rain-swept Royal County Down course.
The four-time Major winner wasted little time jumping into a car and heading straight for a waiting helicopter and a short flight to his parents’ residence in Belfast where he intends to spend two nights.
However as tournament host, McIlroy’s expected back in Newcastle on Sunday to present the trophy to the new Irish Open winner.
McIlroy also has missed a second cut in succession on his return to the European Tour following his victory in the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship.
“I was trying out there as hard as I could but just couldn’t quite get a good run of holes going and get any momentum,” he said.
“I was a couple under through 14 but I still needed a good finish.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that. So I really just left myself too much to do from yesterday and I felt like I played a solid round of golf today but it wasn’t good enough.”
McIlroy was quizzed if he could take any positives out the tournament but bluntly responded: “As far as my golf goes, probably none.
“About everything else there is obviously loads of positives with the Irish Open now, and just look at all this (pointing in the direction of the 18th hole grandstands), I mean the Irish Open is back to what it should be.”
Six players – Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello (68), Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen (70), Scotland’s Richie Ramsay (67), Austrian Bernd Wiesberger (67), England’s Chris Wood (69) and South African Tyrrell Hatton (66) – share the lead at three under par.
Cabrera-Bello produced the only bogey-free round over two days on the wind-swept and rain-lashed course while Hatton matched the Royal County Down course record set 76 years ago in the 1939 Irish Open by Ireland’s Jimmy Bruen.
Triple Major-winning Padraig Harrington (73) is among a group at two under par and the world No.86 can boost hopes of qualifying for the US Open should he finish top-three.
Only nine players, and four fewer than the opening day, remain under par while there are 38 men within six shots of the lead.
Visiting American Rickie Fowler, despite two bogeys over his last three holes, shot a 71 to be level par and well in contention for a second victory in as many tournaments after capturing the European Players Championship.