Apparently a few days of rest was not the cure for Rory McIlroy.
After a surprising missed cut at the BMW PGA Championship, McIlroy struggled to a 9-over 80 in the opening round of the Irish Open, where the Ulsterman is also serving as tournament host.
Conditions were difficult Thursday at Royal County Down, but no one had more trouble in the early going than McIlroy. He squared nine bogeys against nine pars. At 9 over, he was dead last in the morning wave when he finished his round, 11 shots behind Danny Willett and Soren Kjeldsen.
McIlroy began on the back nine and was only 1 over after five holes before he closed his outward half with four consecutive bogeys on Nos. 15-18. After making the turn in 41, he then added four bogeys in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 4-8 and failed to make a single birdie on his round.
McIlroy continued to put himself out of position throughout the day, as he found only nine of 18 greens in regulation but converted only one of the subsequent nine scrambling opportunities. He needed 36 putts, and the score was his highest since an 80 in the final round of the 2011 Masters.
"I don't want to blame outside factors, I just didn't play good enough today," McIlroy said. "I played well off the tee, I felt like I drove the ball pretty well, but the closer I got to the green, the worse the score got for me."
With totals of 78 and 80 across his last two rounds, Friday's second round could be McIlroy's last competitive swings until the U.S. Open unless he rallies to make the cut.
"I've missed the cut the last two years at the Irish Open, so I don't want to make it three in a row," McIlroy said. "I want to at least go out there tomorrow and fight for it, try and claw my way back up towards the cut line. If I can sneak in there, that would be great."
Defending U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, playing in the group with McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, had no birdies en route to a 79. Fowler shot even-par 71.