Day of mixed fortunes at The Open

Day of mixed fortunes at The Open

It was a day to forget for home hope Rory McIlroy.

By Damian Mullan

Reporter:

By Damian Mullan

Email:

sport@thechronicle.uk.com

A DAY that began so positively for Irish golfers, with 2011 champion golfer Darren Clarke hitting the first shot at just after 6.30am, ended in deep disappointment with 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy carding an eight over round of 79 on a day when the weather reflected the changing fortunes of the home hopes.

Sunshine and showers dominated the opening day's play at The 148th Open at Royal Portrush on Thursday, bridging an almost 70 year gap to the only previous time the tournament was held outside mainland Britan.

The early morning was fine as Clarke sent his drive down the middle of the first fairway to huge cheers among a packed grandstand surrounding the first tee.

It mattered little to Clarke supporters that the sun had barely come up - they had come from all arts and parts to celebrate an historic moment foer the game of the golf, for Portrush and for Northern Ireland.

"I think to see all the people coming here, to see howw much - they put their arms around it. It was fabulous," admitted an emotional Clarke.

"It was more emotional than I thought it was going to be, to be honest.

"It was one of those things that I was very proud to be standing on that first tee, hitting the first shot," he added.

Clarke actually led the tournament for a time following two birdies in his opening three holes and went to the turn two under par.

A bogey at 11 was balanced out by a birdie at 12 and it was a similar mixed bag all the way home.

He covered the back nine in two over par 37 and signed for a level par 71 on a return to form for the genial Ulsterman.

Amateur champion James Sugrue, playing alongside his mentor Clarke, performed brilliantly on his way to signing for a level par 71.

It was shaping up to be a good day for Portrush native Graeme McDowell who started in confident fashion and reached the turn in two under par following birdies at the par five second and again at the par five seventh.

He continued to perform well after the turn and moved to three under following a birdie at the par four 14th.

However, that's when things started to unravel for the Rathmore clubman.

A bogey five at 15 was followed by a second birdie in three holes at the par four 17th.

Worse was to follow, however, at the closing hole where a lost ball led to a triple bogey seven for McDowell.

Suffice to say the 2010 US Open champion cut a frustrated figure afterwards.

"Listen, you've got to take the rough with the smooth and that was rough. Hopefully there'll be some more smooth ahead," he said.

"I've just to not let this spoil my week and it's important to regroup. It's very important that I take the positives out of today because there was a huge amount of positives.

G-Mac also admitted that it was an ameotional day, especially standing on that first tee.

"It's just a special day, I literally had a tear in my eye," he admitted.

"It's been a great journey, an amazing journey to get here.

"The first tee was definitely a little emotional and I was just happy to get that away," he added.

However, Clarke and McDowell's troubles were as nothing compared to Rory McIlroy.

The Holywood man endured a day to forget on an historic one for the province.

The die was cast from his opening tee shot which found the out of bounds on the left. From that moment on McIlroy was in trouble.

He steadied the ship somewhat in the middle part of the round but he undid all that good work with an horrendous closing hole which saw him sign for a triple bogey.

By the end, McIlroy had carded an eight over par round of 79 which rules him out of contention for lifting the Claret Jug and might even see him not here for the weekend.

At the other end of the scale, Offaly man Shane Lowry is right in contention following a superb four under par round of 67.

"Look, it's great to be playing in front of your home crowd," he said.

"I had great support out there today and I'm looking forward to the next couple of days.

"With the weather forecast it's going to be quite tricky," he added.

Former champion Padraig Harrington is still in contention, but only just, after a four over par 75.

American JB Holmes leads the way as we enter day two.

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