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McIlroy toils in first round of Irish Open

ESPN staff
June 27, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Rory McIlroy plays a chip © Getty Images
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Irish Open leaderboard

Rory McIlroy endured yet another miserable day, as he was left languishing at two-over par after the first round of the Irish Open.

The former world No. 1 has had a torrid time since switching to his new Nike equipment this season, but he has maintained that he is not far off finding his best form. But there was little of his best form on show at a rain-lashed Carton House as he signed for a 74.

Starting on the back nine, McIlroy was on the back foot early with bogeys at the 11th and 12th. He got a birdie back on 13 but lost a further shot at the 18th.

McIlroy, who has failed to contend in six previous Irish Open appearances, chalked up a run of pars and looked sure to birdie the fifth when firing a gorgeous iron approach to eight feet. However, his putting has been suspect this year and he left it above ground.

A wayward tee shot on the par-five eighth hole saw him 30 yards off the fairway. He scrambled to the front of the green in regulation, but three putts left another bogey on his card.

The one positive for McIlroy was a massive drive on his final hole which set him up for a birdie to leave him seven off the pace.

While McIlroy was struggling, his playing partner was not fazed by the rainy conditions as Shane Lowry - a winner of the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 - played beautifully to card a five-under 67 which was good enough for the clubhouse lead until Swede Oscar Floren shot a bogeyless 66, including an eagle two on the par-four 13th, to top the standings.

Michael Hoey, Joost Luiten, Peter Uihlein and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet all join Lowry one shot off the lead after hitting a round of 67.

Jose Maria Olazabal and Thomas Bjorn are both in contention after carding a four-under par 68.

Graeme McDowell sits five shots off the lead after carding a one-under par 71 in his first round. The Northern Irishman looked in solid form throughout the front nine, making birdies at four and six during a promising start.

However, McDowell could not add to his early run and made par at seven of the holes on the back nien before suffering a late bogey at 17 to spoil his afternoon.

Padraig Harrington joins McDowell at one-under, also finishing with a round of 71 on the opening day. It was a mixed bag for Harrington, starting with two bogeys in the opening three holes before pulling a shot back with a birdie at the fourth.

Three more birdies on the return to the clubhouse, plus another unsavoury bogey, meant that the Irishman remained under par.

Thomas Bjorn was the winner the last time the Irish Open was hosted at Carton House, in 2006, and he has made a bright start with a four-under 68.

Paul Casey is another player who has shown green shoots of recovery in recent weeks and he knocked in six birdies in his round of 68.

Paul McGinley finished at two-under following his round of 70, while Scotsman Marc Warren sits one shot ahead after carding a 69.

However, it remained a round to forget for Darren Clarke who finished proceedings with a 75. Four bogeys and a birdie made up Clarke's front nine of 39, while two of each on the back nine meant he came back in an even-par 36 to stay at three-under for the tournament.

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