Rory McIlroy took his Open Championship disaster on the chin and insisted: “I hope Darren or G-Mac can win it now.”
The world No 2 missed the cut by four shots - his first failure in six appearances at the Open and his highest major score at 12 over - but claimed he had no reason to hang his head in shame as his 2013 slump continued.
After adding a 75 to his nightmare 79 to finish alongside world No 317 Gareth Maybin on 12 over, McIlroy said: “I can’t really be disappointed in myself because I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong in terms under preparing.
“I’ve done everything I could; it just didn’t work out for me.”
McIlroy has given himself two months to get his game in shape after admitting that his thin early season schedule has led to costly swing glitches.
But he hopes to see a Northern Irishman lift the old Claret Jug this weekend with Darren Clarke just four shots behind leader Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell still in with a shout, just seven shots adrift
He said: “I know G-Mac finished on 4 and Darren finished on 1. Yeah, they’re close enough to the lead.
“Obviously Clarkie has had that Claret Jug before, and it would be good to see him win it this weekend.”
McIlroy’s slim hopes of making the cut disappeared when he bogeyed the third and fourth, tdouble bogeyed the seventh after take two attempt to escape a cavernous bunker at the seventh and then dropped another shot at the eighth to soar to 13 over.
And that’s why he turned the rest of his round into a glorified practice session, took out the driver and played his last 10 holes in one under par.
He said: “I needed to get off to a fast start to have any chance of being here for the weekend. I was five-over through eight holes, so that didn’t really happen. But after that I just decided to try and practice a little bit for the next few weeks.
“And I decided that I was going to hit driver every hole that I could, because that’s going to be a big factor the next few weeks.
“And I hit some good drives out there. And by the looks of it I should have probably hit driver everywhere this week. It might have done me better.”
The Holywood star, 24, confessed that he hans’t played enough this year but with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and his US PGA defence coming up, he hopes to regain his form by playing six events in the next eight weeks.
He said: “Sometimes this game can feel further away than it actually is. And obviously at the end of yesterday it couldn’t have felt much further away.
“And today you played the last 10 holes like that, you see some positive signs. And you try and sort of take anything you can from that.
“I’ve got a nice run of events coming up, six events in the next eight weeks. I’m looking forward to playing golf and playing tournaments and getting into a run of events.
“I’m really looking forward to Akron. It’s a place I’ve done well before. It’s a place I feel I can win.
“So going there, I’m really excited to just play four rounds of golf. There’s no cut!”
Asked for the No 1 reason why he’s struggled, he said: “I think it’s been a combination of things, to be honest.
“I think schedule hasn’t been quite right. Swing hasn’t been quite right. And a combination of those has led to, I guess, sloppy play, just because of not sharp enough.
“I think it’s better to play my way out of, and that’s something I haven’t really done this year.”
Today’s tee times
8.10 Sterne, Katayama
8.20 Petterson, Blixt
8.30 Choi, Wood
8.40 Ilonen, Hamilton
8.50 Senior, Brown
9.00 Ogilvy, Lawrie
9.10 Ramsay, Jaidee
9.20 Weekley, Wright
9.30 Kim, Mullen
9.45 Teater, Fernando-Castano
9.55 Bradley, Couples
10.05 Dufner, Cauley
10.15 Van Pelt, Fitzpatrick
10.25 Henley, Clark
10.35 Els, DeLaet
10.45 Lowry, Fisher
10.55 Garcia, Harrington
11.05 Lyle, Yang
11.20 Tiley, Duke
11.30 Coetzee, Bjorn
11.40 Snedeker, Cink
11.50 Kuchar, Jacobson
12.00 Fraser, Willett
12.10 Kaymer, De la Riva
12.20 Bourdy, McDowell
12.30 Gallacher, Streelman
12.45 Curtis, Wiesberger
12.55 Kapur, Donaldson
1.05 Grace, English
1.15 Lehman, O’Meara
1.25 Wagner, Matsuyama
1.35 Day, Mahan
1.45 Leonard, Mickelson
1.55 Poulter, Watson
2.10 Molinari, Simpson
2.20 Scott, Schwartzel
2.30 Clarke, Spieth
2.40 Moore, Cabrera
2.50 Z Johnson, Cabrera-Bello
3.00 Laird, D Johnson
3.10 Woods, Westwood
3.20 Stenson, Jimenez