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SAN FRANCISCO: From the sublime to the sorry - what a difference a year at the US Open has made for Rory McIlroy.
Twelve months ago he was the toast of world golf after producing one of the finest tournament performances in major history, winning the US Open at Congressional by eight strokes with a record low 16-under par total of 268.
On Friday his crown crashed to the ground as he followed up a dismal opening round of 77 with a 73 to stand at 10 over for the tournament. That meant he had missed the cut — for the fourth time in five tournaments.
The 23-year-old Ulsterman battled gamely in the once-again testing conditions at The Olympic Club’s Lake Course, a brute of a layout carved into the eastern slope of a massive sand dune near the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula.
But with birdies a rarity, he never looked like producing one of the bursts of sub-par golf that he is capable of on most courses.
McIlroy insisted that he had played better than his score suggested, it was just that the course was such a conundrum for many of the players.
“I think the thing is that we’re just not used to playing this sort of golf course week in, week out,” he said. “You have to adapt and you have to adjust.
“We’re not used to having to land balls before the edge of the greens to let them run on.
“And it’s just something that you just have to adjust to in this tournament, and I wasn’t able to do that very well this week.”
McIlroy will have plenty sympathy and understanding from playing partner Luke Donald.
The world number one continued his misery at the majors by firing a two-over 72, creditable enough, but nowhere near what he required to make the weekend following the humbling 79 that left him ruefully shaking his head on Thursday.
Many thought the exacting course here, which requires laser-like precision off the tee and the deftist of touches around and on the greens, would be right up Donald’s street. Instead he looked all at sea.
“I think I missed nine putts inside 10 feet yesterday and just couldn’t get the feel for the greens, the reads, the speed,” the Englishman said.
“And if I had putted a little bit better yesterday I could have ground out a score today and maybe been somewhere decently placed for the weekend.
“But it wasn’t to be and I’m trying to learn from it and come back stronger next time.”
Asked if his inability to win a major title was starting to weigh on him, especially with so many first-time winners popping up, Donald agreed it was not getting any easier.
“Certainly that’s the one part of my golfing resume in the last few years that I need to continually address and continually improve.
“I want to win one more than any of you guys know. And obviously I’ll continue to try and do that.”
There was one consolation on Friday for Donald though with the news from London that he had been awarded an MBE in he Queen’s birthday honours list for his services to British golf.
“I am truly honoured to be awarded an MBE by Her Majesty — particularly in her jubilee year,” Donald said.
“Both 2011 and 2012 have been very significant years for me, both personally and professionally, and I am touched that my accomplishments have been recognised in this way.”
Next up for Donald and McIroy will be preparations for the British Open being held at Royal Lytham in Lancashire next month, but neither will be too confident about that.
Donald has just the one top 10 finish in 11 previous attempts at The Open, while McIlroy shocked many last year at windy, rainy Royal St George’s by saying that he much preferred playing in US sunshine. -- AFP