Brian Keogh in Rosses Point
Rory McIlroy stood head and shoulders above the rest at Rosses Point yesterday but the 17-year-old Holywood star still wasn’t happy with his game despite cruising into the last 16 of the Radisson-SAS West of Ireland Championship.
After a casual performance in the second qualifying round on Saturday, when he shot a four over par 75, the reigning champion came out firing on all cylinders and left Portmarnock’s David Kelleher on the receiving end of a 2 and 1 first round defeat.
McIlroy complained that his head was not quite in the right place in qualifying and it was just as well that he produced his Sunday best golf against Kelleher, who is a grinder in the classic matchplay mould.
The Dubliner fired off three birdies in the first five holes to keep McIlroy at bay and while he lost the 11th and 12th to birdies to go two down, he never made a bogey and only lost on the 17th when the champion rammed in a 25 footer for his sixth birdie of the day.
“I was hanging on by my fingernails,” Kelleher said of his performance over the finishing stretch. “But he is just too good and he put me away there on the 17th when he had the chance.”
McIlroy’s only bogey came at the 16th, where he fluffed a cut up wedge after missing the green and while he cruised to a 3 and 2 win over Galway’s Eddie McCormack in the second round (a repeat of the 2005 Irish Close final) he headed straight for the putting green afterwards for a lesson from National Coach Neil Manchip.
“This morning was a bit more like it,” said McIlroy. “I knew David was a pretty good player and would be sticky enough and I played pretty well, but not this afternoon. I didn’t commit to my putts on the greens so I just asked Neil for a quick lesson.
“It is more about attitude than mechanics and I was trying to guide the ball to the hole rather than letting the putter come through naturally.”
The question is, who can stop McIlroy? Rory Leonard, the beaten 1999 finalist and the man McIlroy saw off by one hole in the semi-finals two years ago, is next for shaving and he’s praying that the wind will blow as hard as it did yesterday if he is to have any chance of stopping the McIlroy juggernaut from rolling into the last eight.
“I think tough conditions will give me a better chance to beat him to be honest,” Leonard said. “On a calm day he could shoot six or seven under, which would be tough to match but level par on a tough day might be easier to match.”
McIlroy no longer has to worry about Ireland team mates Niall Kearney or Shane Lowry, who crashed to surprise defeats in the first and second rounds respectively.
Kearney was the first to go, beaten by a delightful birdie at the 20th by 17-year-old Strandhill schoolboy Tommy McGowan while Lowry, who was joint second in the qualifiers, was a 5 and 3 loser to big-hitting Michael Lavelle from The K Club.
A 32-year-old cabinet maker from Belmullet, Lavelle was one down after five holes but took the sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th in par to go three holes before Lowry called a penalty on himself when the ball moved in the rough at the 11th and lost that one as well to fall hopelessly behind.
McIlroy’s big rival is undoubtedly leading qualifier Simon Ward, the reigning South Ireland champion from Co Louth, who showed his undeniable class when he came back from three down after four to win beat Holywood’s Harry Diamond by two holes.
Radisson-SAS West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship
W McCulley (Donaghadee) bt G Hall (Edenderry) 3/1;
J Hurst (Shaw Hill, UK) bt G Boyd (Donaghadee) 2/1;
D Coyle (Co Louth) bt D Scully (Galway) 19th;
D Crowe (Dunmurry) bt S Grant (Birr) 2/1;
N Gorey (Lee Valley) bt D Finn (Mallow) 2/1;
G McDermott (Co Sligo) bt M Hammond (Moyola Park) 2/1
E Saxel (Petersfield, UK) bt R McNamara (Headfort) 3/2;
T McGowan (Strandhill) bt N Kearney (Royal Dublin) 20th.
L Lennox (Moyola Park bt D Vaughan (Ardglass) 5/4;
P Cutler (Portstewart) bt J P Hughes (Douglas) 2 holes;
B Walton (UCD/Island) bt E Kennedy (Strabane) 6/5;
C Doran (Banbridge) bt G O’Connor (Malahide) 2/1;
T Walsh (Claremorris) bt K O’Neill (Strandhill) 1 hole;
R Leonard (Banbridge) bt M Crowe (Elm Park) 1 hole;
E McCormack (Galway) bt G O’Flaherty (Cork) 2 holes;
R McIlroy (Holywood) bt D Kelleher (Portmarnock) 2/1.
S Ward (Co Louth) bt A Condren (Greystones) 4/3;
H Diamond (Holywood) bt P Killeen (Claremorris) 19th;
D Lernihan (UCD/Castle) bt D Morgan (Mullingar) 4/3;
B Cashman (Belvoir Park) bt P Sheehy (Limerick) 3/2;
R Kilpatrick (Banbridge) bt D Coyne (Tuam) 1 hole;
C Curley (Newlands) bt A McCloy (Ballymena) 2 holes;
P Connolly (Clontarf) bt D Sutton (Lockerbie, UK) 19th;
D Downie (Sutton) bt J Moore (L’town & B’town) 6/5.
S Lowry (UCD/Esker Hills) bt D Kneafsey (Sudbury, UK) 6/5;
M Lavelle (K Club) bt N Grant (Knock) 1 hole;
J Lyons (Galway) bt P McGrath (Dromoland) 4/3;
R McCarthy (The Island) bt E O’Sullivan (The Island) 3/2;
P Murray (Limerick) bt R Boal (Scrabo) 3/2;
C Hughes (Royal Portrush) bt P Errity (Delgany) 2/1;
A Dunbar (Rathmore) bt A Johnston (North Middlesex, UK) 1 hole;
A Hogan (UCD/Newlands) bt C O’Connor (UCD/Athlone) 2/1.
J Hurst bt W McCulley 5/4;
D Crowe bt D Coyle 3/2;
N Gorey bt G McDermott 3/2;
T McGowan bt E Saxel 2/1
P Cutler bt L Lennox 5/3;
B Walton bt C Doran 3/2;
R Leonard bt T Walsh 2/1;
R McIlroy bt E McCormack 3/2.
S Ward bt H Diamond 2 holes;
D Lernihan bt B Cashman 1 hole;
R Kilpatrick bt C Curley 3/2;
D Downie bt P Connolly 1 hole.
M Lavelle bt S Lowry 5/3;
J Lyons bt R McCarthy 2/1;
P Murray bt C Hughes 4/3;
A Hogan bt A Dunbar 2/1.
Third rd draw (8.0 am at 10 minutes intervals)
J Hurst v D Crowe;
N Gorey v T McGowan;
P Cutler v B Walton;
R Leonard v R McIlroy;
S Ward v D Lernihan;
R Kilpatrick v D Downie;
M Lavelle v J Lyons;
P Murray v A Hogan.
Quarter-finals (From 1 pm, 15 minute intervals).