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McIlroy MCs, encouraged after late stretch under par

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GULLANE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy’s lost season continued Friday, after the world No. 2 took 154 strokes over two days at Muirfield. At 12 over he missed the cut in his second consecutive event, and this one wasn’t particularly close.

He opened with 79 at the British Open, then was 5 over through his first seven holes Friday. With no chance to make the cut, McIlroy essentially began to look ahead to his next event, hitting driver every hole he could, and he even made a bit of a rally, playing the final 11 holes in 1 under. It gave him hope that an end to this miserable season was in sight.

“I’m disappointed, but I guess I have a clearer picture of what I need to work on and what I need to do to put things right,” he said afterward. “Sometimes this game can feel further away than it actually is. And obviously at the end of (Thursday’s round) it couldn’t have felt much further away. But playing the 11 holes like that, you see some positive signs. You try and take anything you can from that.”

McIlroy will now play six events in an eight-week span, easily his busiest stretch of the season, and it’s a run that he hopes can break him out of a year-long funk. He has but one top-5 finish this season, a year after winning five times worldwide and capturing Player of the Year honors on both the PGA and European tours.

It’s been an eventful season, to say the least.

There was the much-discussed switch to Nike equipment, and the light early-season schedule, and the walk-off at the Honda Classic. There was the chance to win in San Antonio, and the bent club in frustration at the U.S. Open, and now, his first missed cut at the year’s third major.

Asked what was most to blame for this slump, McIlroy replied: “I think it’s a combination of things, to be honest. I think the schedule hasn’t been quite right. The swing hasn’t been quite right. And a combination of those has led to sloppy play, just because you’re not sharp enough.”

McIlroy will next tee it up at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the site of last year’s slump-busting performance. After his T-5 at Firestone, he ran off an eight-shot victory at the PGA Championship, then added three more top-tier wins worldwide.

“I’m excited to play four rounds of golf,” he said, sheepishly. “There’s no cut.”