Rory McIlroy was the pre-tournament favourite at Royal Portrush, but his Open Championship hopes went up in smoke after one hole.
Having been the focus of intense scrutiny in the build-up to the tournament on home soil, the Northern Irishman appeared to let the pressure get to him during Thursday’s opening round.
As far less storied players made significantly easier work of the course and conditions, McIlroy toiled to an eight-over 79.
It was a study in the damage nerves can do to even the best this sport has to offer.
Here we take a look at the breakdown of a major meltdown.
HOLE 1 – THE NIGHTMARE START
The misery started with an out-of-bounds opening tee shot, which saw the cheers that greeted McIlroy onto the tee turn to gasps. His ball reportedly broke a spectator’s phone and he only fared slightly better with his next attempt off the tee, finding the rough. From there McIlroy landed in a bush, took another drop, chipped to within eight feet but two-putted for an eight.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 18, 2019
HOLES 3 & 5 – THE STRUGGLES CONTINUE
At the par-three third, McIlroy landed in thick rough over the back of the green. The chip out left him a sizeable putt that failed to reach the hole, leading to another dropped shot. Things threatened to get drastically worse at the fifth when McIlroy’s errant tee shot was lost for a while behind a scoreboard screen. Having located his ball, McIlroy deposited it onto the green and almost made birdie, but had to settle for a scrappy par.
HOLES 7 & 9 – THE RECOVERY BEGINS?
At long last, some respite for Rory. He made his first gain of a difficult day at the seventh, a new hole for this championship, and followed it up with another birdie at the ninth to make the turn in 39.
HOLE 12 – THE UP AND DOWN
After achieving something resembling consistency for a good few holes, McIlroy’s blemish-free run was under serious threat at the par-five 12th. He was buried in the rough to the left side of the green and could not control his third shot, which scuttled across the putting surface and off the other side. A tidy up and down ensured no damage was done.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 18, 2019
HOLE 16 – THE LATE SETBACK
Despite being three over with three to play, McIlroy still had hopes of climbing back into a respectable position and had not dropped a shot since the third hole. But there was another gut punch to come for the 30-year-old, who three-putted from inside five feet for a double bogey at 16, the hole known as Calamity Corner.
HOLE 18 – THE FINAL HUMILIATION
The 18th hole provided one last dose of humiliation for McIlroy as he closed out with a triple-bogey seven. A miscued drive, a poor approach, a tentative putt – not one part of his game was firing as he carded a 79 to resign himself to a fifth full season without a major win, because surely there would be no way back from this.