GULLANE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy played like he was brain-dead Thursday at the British Open. His words, not mine.
The world No. 2 told media Wednesday that he’d describe his game as “promising” heading into this week's major. He felt that, despite poor results recently, he’d put in the practice and his game was feeling much better than it appeared.
Then, McIlroy shot 8-over 79 Thursday (42 on the back nine) at Muirfield and now stands 13 shots behind Zach Johnson, who shot 66 and was the early leader.
“I don’t know what you can do,” McIlroy said. “You’ve just got to try and play your way out of it. But it’s nothing to do with technique. It’s all mental out there.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there and I’m unconscious. I just need to try to think more.”
Among other hiccups, McIlroy missed a 3-foot putt and rolled another putt from the front of the green off the back and into a bunker.
Standing on the front of the 15th green McIlroy took a mighty swipe with the flat stick and booted the ball well over the green. He failed to get up and down from the bunker and made double bogey.
“We’ve all been there where you make a bogey or so, and you just want to try to get that birdie back,” McIlroy’s playing partner Phil Mickelson said. “Sometimes in trying to get it back you put it in a spot that you make another bogey.
“He had a couple of shots that had a chance to get close to the hole and they ended up in a really bad spot.”
It’s difficult for McIlroy to know where to turn now. His 79 is the same score that 56-year-old Nick Faldo shot. Earlier in the week Faldo mentioned that he thought McIlroy needed to devote 100 percent of his focus on golf. McIlroy brushed aside Faldo’s notion Wednesday when asked his thoughts.
That’s in the past now as are aspirations of winning a claret jug. McIlroy is going to have to scramble mightily just to make the cut.
“I want to try to be here for the weekend,” he said. “But the thing that I need to do tomorrow is just go out there and free-wheel it and try and make birdies and try and play with that little bit of what it is I have usually.”