Rory McIlroy after opening round 79 (+8): "I would like to punch myself"

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Rory McIlroy: 'I let myself down' and want to 'punch myself' after disastrous eight-over 79 during the first round of the Open championship that included a quadruple AND a triple bogey

This was not how it was supposed to go. 

The focus on Rory McIlroy as the pre-tournament favourite was more than justified by a season that has been punctuated with two wins and impressive stats that, by his own admission, are the product of a year that has been the most consistent he's ever played.

Coupled with an Open record that includes three top 10s in his last three starts and a major in Ireland for the first time since 1951, everything seemed set-up for McIlroy to have his best opportunity to claim his first major since 2014.

Instead, it took just over five hours for McIlroy's hopes of lifting the Claret Jug in Northern Ireland to be rendered near obselete after an opening eight-over par 79 during the first round of the Open Championship on Thursday. 

“I would like to punch myself. I made a couple of stupid mistakes,” McIlroy told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I was pretty nervous on the first tee and hit a bad shot.

"I showed some resilience in the middle of the round and was trying to fight back into the championship but then I finished off poorly as well...But seven over par combined on the first and last holes makes it very hard for you.

“I let myself down more than anyone else and need to pick myself back up.”

There was always the question of pressure and legacy of a major event being held just an hour from where he grew up, and McIlroy himself said on Wednesday "That can go one of two ways; right?". 

When McIlroy stepped on to the first tee at 10.09 local time on Thursday morning, he was greeted by a huge roar of applause and expectant spectators, but it took just a few minutes for the tone to shift entirely as he pulled his opening tee shot out of bounds - cracking the phone of a female fan in the process. 

"I was nervous on the first tee," McIlroy said, but was adament that it wasn't about the pressure. "But not nervous because of that. Nervous because it's an Open Championship. I usually get nervous on the first tee anyway, regardless of where it is. So maybe a little more so today than other places.

"I hit my first shot out of bounds yesterday but it went right so that might have been in my head a little bit. I turned the ball over a little too much. It was a poor tee shot but not that bad it deserved to go out of bounds.

It was a big blow that required damage limitation, but McIlroy's next tee shot also failed to find the fairway, and his subsequent approach shot ended up by the fern bushes short of the green. 

Despite already having played four, McIlroy was then forced to take an unplayable lie, and while the sixth shot with his wedge came to rest just a few feet away, the putter let him down and was forced to settle for a disastrous quadruple-bogey eight. 

Things only got worse for the 2014 Open Champion. Just two holes later his tee shot ran through the back of the green in to thick rough at the par-three 3rd, and he dropped to five-over-par after failing to get up and down. 

There was a brief spell where he looked to have found his swing as he rolled in birdie putts at the 7th and 9th holes to get back to three-over-par.

He had another chance at the 10th to move back towards red numbers but his birdie putt slipped by, and it would be the start of a spell of six straight pars for the World No.3. 

But any remaining hopes that McIlroy could recover suffered a further blow as he three-putted from five feet for a double-bogey five on the famous Calamity Corner 16th – and it wasn't the end of his misfortune.

From the 18th fairway McIlroy pushed his shot in to thick rough by the side of the grandstand, and walked off with a triple-bogey seven – leaving him 12 shots behind current first-round leader Shane Lowry.

It feels like a cruel twist of fate that for the four-time major champion, marking the first major championship where he's had multiple triple-bogeys or worse and leaves him with a very large uphill battle.

“If I look back I undid all my good work to recover on the last three holes," McIlroy continued.

“At the end of the day I play golf to fulfill my ambitions, not anyone else’s, but I wish I could have given the crowd something to cheer about."

As for his hopes for the rest of the event? McIlroy said that despite his disappointment, he is hoping he can at least be around for the weekend.

"I'm disappointed, but at the end of the day I'm still the same person. I'm going to go back and see my family, see my friends, and hopefully they don't think any less of me after a performance like that today. And I'll dust myself off and come back out tomorrow and try to do better.

"I definitely think if I can put the ball in the fairway tomorrow I can shoot a good enough score to be around for the weekend. Obviously I'm pretty sure anyone starting with a 79 in this golf tournament doesn't think about winning at this point. But I think I can go out there and shoot something in the mid-60s, be around for the weekend, and then try to play good from there."