Rory McIlroy tied the lowest round of the day with a six-under-par 65 on Friday but still came up one shot shy of making the cut at the 148th Open Championship
There was nobody better at Royal Portrush than Rory McIlroy on Friday, but despite putting together the best round of the day the World No.3 is still heading home early after being unable to make up for the first round 79 that left him wanting to punch himself.
There were big cheers that reverberated around the gallery as Rory McIlroy found the first fairway with his drive on Friday. It was a humorous moment, but the undertone alluded to the huge effort required from Rory if he was to recover from his disastrous eight-over-par first round that included a quadruple bogey on the first and triple bogey to finish.
And while he came agonisingly close to making it happen, he can undoubtedly leave with his head held high.
"Disappointed not to be here for the weekend," an emotional McIlroy said following his round.
"Unbelievably proud of how I handled myself today coming back after what was a very challenging day yesterday. And just full of gratitude towards every single one of the people that followed me to the very end and was willing me on.
"As much as I came here at the start of the week saying I wanted to do it for me, you know, by the end of the round there today I was doing it just as much for them as I was for me. I wanted to be here for the weekend. Selfishly I wanted to feel that support for two more days.
"But today was probably one of the most fun rounds of golf I've ever played. It's strange saying that standing here and having had a bit of success and won this championship before, and just to be battling to make the cut.
"To play in front of those crowds today and to feel that momentum and really dig in, it's going to be a tough one to get over. I'll probably rue the finish yesterday, dropping five shots on the last three holes.
"But I felt like I gave a good account of myself today and I can leave here with my head held high."
McIlroy's first birdie of the day came at the second, and although he failed to take advantage of a brilliant drive on the fifth, he rolled in another just two holes later to move to back to six-over-par.
Another chance slipped by him on the ninth, but a huge swing in momentum for the Northern Irishman occurred as he converted a birdie on the par-four 10th, and followed it up with tap-in gains at both the 11th and 12th holes after monstrous drives.
It moved the former Open champion closer towards the cut-line, but there was a brief stopper on his chances as he failed to get up and down for par from the greenside bunker on the par-three 13th.
He expertly bounced back with an unlikely birdie on 14 – becoming just the sixth person all day to make one on one of the toughest holes of round two.
McIlroy then scrambled for par on 15 after once more finding a greenside bunker, and followed it up with a birdie on the par-three 16th to get to within one shot of the cut line.
The World No.3 was then left needing a birdie over the final two holes, and it looked ominous when he pushed his tee shot out right on the 17th. He was fortunate with his lie, hitting his wedge to around 20-feet but his putt slipped by on the left hand side.
With just the 18th hole to go, McIlroy found the fairway from the tee, but his approach shot missed the green, and he could do no better than an up and down for par.
It was a valiant effort that resulted in a six-under 65, but despite tying the joint low round of the day it all proved too tall a task for the man who had held so much expectation heading in.
Fellow pros full of praise for Rory McIlroy
Justin Thomas and Eddie Pepperell were among the pros to praise Rory McIlroy after his early exit from The Open. Here's what they said.