G-Mac’s evil beast
 The seventh at Royal County Down

The seventh at Royal County Down

Graeme McDowell think Royal County Down could host The Open but he warned: “It can eat you alive.”

The Ulster ace look set to lead early in the day only to finish with three straight bogeys for a one over 72.

Happy not to blow himself out of the tournament in the morning squalls that wrecked Rory McIlroy’s day, G-MAc said: “This course is a beast, borderline evil in this type of wind. 

“We don’t get to experience these conditions very much and this is raw, this is what it’s all about. This is proper Open Championship golf.

“You could put the grandstands up and play The Open here, but if you get it wrong, it can eat you alive. 

“Between showers and gusts, it’s playable but as the fronts roll through it’s very difficult, anything around par is very good score.

“It’s about not blowing yourself out of the tournament.”

Bogeys at the seventh, eighth and ninth took some of the gloss off McDowell’s day but he confessed: “There is no point walking off the last green and throwing the toys out of the pram. 

“There’s a lot of golf to play and there are going to be bogeys made and you have got to be the one making the least mistakes possible. 

“I feel pretty comfortable on this golf course but there are a few holes that give me the heebeegeebies — No 7 plays pretty tough and that second shot to the eighth is very difficult as well.”

Rickie tells Rory, let’s have fun

Rickie Fowler felt sorry for Rory McIlroy after his 80.

Fowler said: “Yeah, it’s tough to see.  You don’t want to see someone struggle. We’ve all been through it, and I’m sure we'll go out and have some fun, hopefully feed off of each other tomorrow."

Asked what words of encouragement he gave McIlroy, Fowler said: “I really just said, you know, let's go get after it tomorrow.  

"I've been there plenty of times.  Everyone that plays golf at a high level, low level, whatever, you have good days and bad days.  

“So tomorrow's a new day and we'll go out and have some fun."

Marathon man

Nobody enjoys suffering but Michael Hoey confessed his 71 was his most enjoyable round of the year.

The Ballymoney man was delighted to go round in level par after a rough start to the season.

A lowly 116th in the Race to Dubai money list, Hoey said: “This is a marathon but I was enjoying it today. 

“It's the most I've enjoyed a round of golf this year apart from the first round in Thailand where I had 8 under. 

“When you're playing well, you don't get into your score. You just get in and hit the shots. 

“When you're not playing well you really get into your score, that's the tendency. You think 'oh I'm three over, I'll miss the cut...'  that's golf.”

Ryder Captains defend big gun Rory

Being Ryder Cup captain means showing faith in your big gun and both 2014 skipper Paul McGinley and 2016 European boss Darren Clarke had sympathy for a struggling Rory McIlroy.

The world No 1 clearly played poorly for a nine over 80 that left him propping up the field.

But both Clarke and McGinley had nothing negative to say about a player that’s been a stalwart in Ryder Cups since 2010 and a rock this week with his hosting of the event

“Rory has huge demands on his time,” McGinley rapped. “He’s won two of last four tournaments, there’s nothing wrong with him.”

Clarke added: “He’s got a lot of stuff going on. He’s a busy man everywhere he goes. I’m sure he wants to play well this week but that’s golf.”

Phelan’s missing links

Mount Juliet touring professional Kevin Phelan wants to regain his putting touch from the 2012 Interpros at Royal County Down today.

The Waterford Castle man opened with a three over 74 but while he was pleased with the way he hit the ball, he was miffed about taking 32 putts.

“If I can get a few putts to go in, I’lll be fine,” said Phelan, who won five points out of six for the winning Munster team three years ago.

"I find with links greens they are quite flat so the break are pretty subtle and it is hard to see them at times. That’s what I felt today. 

“In the interpros they were easy to read. Hopefully tomorrow we will read and putt them a bit better.”

Clarke of the course

The par-three seventh took its toll in the field with the morning wave alone playing the 144-yard gem in 3.3.

There were just four birdies with Darren Clarke making one of his few decent clubbing decisions with a cut up seven iron into a stiff right to left wind.

Apart from that it was forgettable stuff from the European Ryder Cup captain, who blamed himself and his caddie for his six bogeys in his four over 75.

“Didn’t hit well,” Clarke said. “Got a lot of clubs wrong between the caddy any myself and didn’t putt well. All in all, pretty poor day.”

Hoey’s big dipper

Michael Hoey was feeling chipper after his level par 71 in the morning squalls but not so keen on a dip in Dundrum Bay.

The former British Amateur and Irish Amateur Open champion must be regarded as a dark horse but he’s not getting ahead of himself and certainly going nowhere near the sea.

“The forecast was always a bit mixed today, but that's what you get when you're by the sea,” Hoey said. 

“I mean one hole we were walking down the edge of the coast there and the sea looked good enough to go in, and then five minutes later it really didn’t.”

Seventh heaven? Not likely

Darren Clarke’s birdie at the seventh was a very rare bird and there were few walking off that green with a smile.

“Like everybody I’ve got a sad story — double bogey on the 7th,” Paul McGinley said as just seven players in the morning wave broke par around Royal County Down. 

“Hit an eight iron in the middle of a squally shower and it ballooned in the air and came down in the rough short of the green,” the 2014 Ryder Cup skipper explained. 

"Horrendous lie, could barely move it, knocked it into the bunker and didn’t get up and down. It’s a brutal hole.”

Graeme McDowell three putted from just off the back for bogey and went further than “brutal”.

“In these condition, this course is a beast, borderline evil in this type of wind,” McDowell said.

“This is raw, this is what it’s all about. This is proper Open Championship conditions. You could put the grandstands up and play The Open here tomorrow.”

Run ends for Lowry

Shane Lowry’s bogey free run ended after 61 holes on Royal County Down’s par-four eighth.

The 2009 Irish Open champion tied for sixth in the BMW PGA at Wentworth last week by following an opening 74 with three immaculate rounds.

After a bogey at the 18th on Thursday, he went 61 consecutive holes without error before taking five at the 429-yard eighth yesterday. A one over 72 wasn't what he had in mind when he got to one under with four to play but he was happy to birdie the last after mistakes at the 15th and 16th.