Outplayed by a man 20 years his senior and another four years his junior, Rory McIlroy was a disappointed young man after his opening 76 in the BMW PGA at Wentworth.
He didn’t stop to talk to reporters but did reveal the extent of his frustration hours later on Twitter: “Just finished a little bit of retail therapy at Harrods! Needed it!”
What would McIlroy be prepared to pay right now if he could go shopping for some golfing attributes? What about the patience of a 42-year old Darren Clarke, who has taken 20 years to learn how to turn the temperature gauge down to simmering when he feels like boiling over. Or perhaps the maturity of 18-year old Matteo Manassero, who already has as many professional wins as the young Ulsterman?
There is no doubt that McIlroy, as likeable a bloke as you will meet anywhere on tour, has problems keeping his chin up when his game is slightly off. As Graeme McDowell has pointed out several times, he has to learn how to grind when his iron play is less than perfect and the putts fail to find the bottom of the hole.
Building on his win in Mallorca two weeks ago, Clarke gave a masterclass in patience as he shot a 69 featuring two early birdies followed by a string of pars. Manassero shot a 66 that left him just two strokes adrift of world No 1 elect Luke Donald and revealed the he will take time off after the US Open to take his final school exams.
Clarke won’t be at Congressional because he has decided to skip the qualifying event in 10 days’ time concentrate his efforts on the European Tour.
But McIlroy will be there, bidding to prove that he can bounce back from the final round 80 that cost him the Masters. That the young Ulsterman will win majors is taken is read and he has the quality to win one going away.
Can he win ugly? That is the question. The US Open will require some pretty solid putting inside 10 feet and while McIlroy has taken steps and employed Dave Stockton to help him improve in that department, he was unconvincing in the first round at Wentworth.
What’s also true is that McIlroy has the game to come out this afternoon and follow that 76 with a 67 or better.
Battling illness, McDowell shot a 75 that made him sick to his stomach. It was made harder to digest by the fact that he played alongside a mesmeric Donald.
“Tough day on the greens today,” tweeted the Manchester United fan. “Low one tomorrow or I will have plenty of time to get to Wembley Saturday night.”
Then in reference to Donald’s controlled ball-striking, he added: “@Luke_Donald = frozen rope.”
While McIlroy and McDowell were less than pleased with their opening efforts, Clarke was joined in the happy place on Thursday night by Madeira Islands Open winner Michael Hoey, who shot a level par 71.
Shane Lowry took 74 and revealed: “Honestly feel like I’m after going 12 rounds with Tyson…”
There were also 74’s for late starter and dad to be Peter Lawrie and Ulsterman Gareth Maybin but for the rest of the Irish it was a day to forget.
Damien McGrane (78), David Mortimer (79) and Paul McGinley (80) have had better days while David Higgins was six over with the 18th to play when play was finally suspended a almost ten to nine last night following a day of gusting winds, rains squalls and a 36 minute delay for thunder and lightning.