So near, yet so far - A look at Rory McIlroy's stunning effort to make Portrush cut
It was a truly wonderful effort from Rory McIlroy but ultimately it was a case of so near and yet so far for his hopes of making the cut at The Open.
The pressure was high on McIlroy when he took to the first tee in front an expectant home Royal Portrush crowd, witnessing Open golf for the first time in 68 years, on Thursday.
But a quadruple-bogey eight set the tone for a hugely disappointing round that saw McIlroy trudge home at eight over par.
He played the first, third, 16th and 18th in 24 strokes in round one. Surely he could not make the weekend?
Or could he? McIlroy gave it an almighty effort in round two and came home in just 31 strokes, halving his score on those same holes that proved so costly a day before.
Ultimately, though, a valiant six-under 65 was agonisingly just short of the one-over cut line. Here, we take a look at McIlroy's stunning effort.
HOLES 3&7 – MOMENTUM OF SORTS
There was progress, albeit minor, for McIlroy through the front nine. Thursday's first-hole demons were exorcised as he started with back-to-back pars. Birdies at the third and seventh represented a move in the right direction, but it was still a long way to go…
HOLE 10 – START OF THE ROLL
It would still take a herculean effort from this point for McIlroy, who was six over for the tournament. A huge drive and an approach to 20 feet meant there was work to do, but he drained his putt to spark more hope among the throngs of spectators.
HOLES 11&12 – THIS IS ON
A near 350-yard drive set up a tap-in birdie from 18 inches at 11 and there was another roar shortly after when a storming effort off the tee and a cute wedge shot gave McIlroy a look at eagle at 12. He could not quite make it but another birdie meant he was truly rocking and rolling.
HOLE 13 – UNLUCKY FOR SOME
Now was not the time to find green-side sand, but that is exactly what McIlroy did at the par-three 13th. An over-enthusiastic pitch with the wedge went careering past the hole and he failed to save par, meaning a first bogey of the day.
HOLE 14 – BACK IN BUSINESS
There was little time to sit and dwell for McIlroy, who needed something huge through the last five holes. He played another beautiful drive and a sweet approach from around 180 yards before rolling in a sixth birdie of the day.
HOLE 16 – NO CALAMITY ON THIS OCCASION
A day previous, McIlroy needed three putts inside five feet for a costly double-bogey five at the aptly named 'Calamity Corner'. On this occasion he nailed one to the middle of the green and drained a putt from 15 feet. If he could find one more birdie, McIlroy would be around for the weekend.
HOLES 17&18 – IT JUST WASN'T TO BE
McIlroy went right off the tee at the penultimate hole but he had a nice lie in the rough and managed to find the green. Unfortunately, his putt swung left meaning it all came down to the final hole. An iron off the tee found the middle of the fairway, but with his second he missed the green to the left meaning it was pitch in or go home. It was a solid effort from McIlroy but the ball never truly troubled the cup. He at least managed to finish with a par and a packed-out 18th hole crowd afforded their hero a rousing reception.