PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy said he felt like punching himself after suffering a nightmare round at the British Open on Thursday, shooting an eight over-par round of 79 at the Royal Portrush course.
The Northern Irishman started with a quadruple bogey eight on the par-four first after his opening drive from the tee flew out of bounds to the left.
But after grinding his way back to three-over, he imploded on the final three holes — with some casual putting as he double-bogeyed the par-three 16th and then got in trouble in the rough to make a seven on the par-four final hole.
The 30-year-old four-time major winner was tipped as one of the favourites for the first Open in Northern Ireland since 1951 but now faces a battle to make the cut for the weekend.
“I would like to punch myself. I made a couple of stupid mistakes. I was pretty nervous on the first tee and hit a bad shot. I showed some resilience in the middle of the round and was trying to fight back into the championship but then I finished off poorly as well,” he said.
“But seven over par combined on the first and last holes makes it very hard for you,” he said.
McIlroy, who shot to prominence with a course record 61 at Portrush when he was a 16-year-old, rejected the idea that he had been impacted by the sense of occasion as the Open returned after a 68-year absence.
“At the end of the day I play golf to fulfil my ambitions not anyone else’s but I wish I could have given the crowd something to cheer about,” he said.
“I let myself down more than anyone else and need to pick myself back up.”
The Northern Irishman said that the most disappointing mistake of the day was the way he missed a tap-in on the 16th, taking the shot casually, after he had missed a six foot putt.
“That was inexcusable,” he said, describing the error as a lapse in concentration.
While his round has almost certainly put him out of contention for the title, McIlroy said he was confident that he could make the cut and end the tournament well.
“I definitely think if I can put the ball in the fairway tomorrow I can shoot a good enough score to be around for the weekend.
“Obviously I’m pretty sure anyone starting with a 79 in this golf tournament doesn’t think about winning at this point. But I think I can go out there and shoot something in the mid-60s, be around for the weekend, and then try to play good from there,” he said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Mitch Phillips and Pritha Sarkar