Rory McIlroy has admitted two nightmare holes have scuppered his Royal Portrush dream after just one round of The Open.
The 30-year-old stepped onto his home course as tournament favourite, as Portrush hosted The Open for the first time in 68 years.
McIlroy shot 61 aged 16 on these Dunluce Links, but blew his latest tilt at a second Open title with a woeful eight over 79 in Thursday’s first round.
A horror-show quadruple bogey at the first and a triple bogey at the last offered McIlroy a brutal bookend, leaving the home favourite scrambling even to make the cut.
Asked if he can find any way back into this tournament, McIlroy joked instead about going back to his United States base, quipping in reply: “Definitely a way back to Florida.”
But quickly changing tack, McIlroy continued: “Look, I definitely think if I can put the ball in the fairway tomorrow I can shoot a good enough score to be around for the weekend.
“Obviously I’m pretty sure anyone starting with a 79 in this golf tournament doesn’t think about winning at this point.
“But I think I can go out there and shoot something in the mid-60s, be around for the weekend, and then try to play good from there.
“I guess when you play your first and last holes in a combined seven-over par, you’re sort of starting on the back foot.
“It was a rough start. But I felt like I showed some good resilience after that.
“I think I played the next 13 or 14 holes at two under par. And then really what I’m disappointed about is I undid all that great work over the last few holes.
“I lost concentration after the missed par putt on 16, I missed a short one there.
Not the start he was hoping for.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 18 July 2019
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy opened his bid for a second Claret Jug with a quadruple-bogey 8 pic.twitter.com/PyaItk2FMe
“And then on 18, I hit a tee shot that I knew wasn’t going to be in the fairway, but I didn’t think it was going to be quite as bad as it was.”
McIlroy had served up mixed messages when assessing whether he would embrace or swerve the pressure of a major tournament at his home club.
The Holywood native first played Portrush as a 10th birthday present, but found precious few gifts when he could have expected all his Christmases to come at once.
Asked if his disappointment is heightened by slipping up on home turf, McIlroy replied: “I don’t think so. Look, it’s disappointing.
“I’d be disappointed regardless, whether it was here or St Andrews or Birkdale or any of the other tournaments or majors.
“So, yeah, I’m disappointed, but at the end of the day I’m still the same person.
“I’m going to go back and see my family, see my friends, and hopefully they don’t think any less of me after a performance like that today.
“And I’ll dust myself off and come back out tomorrow and try to do better.”
Maintaining a fighting stance, McIlroy joked he was not ready to throw in the towel and drown his sorrows in local nightspot Kelly’s.
“It’s not like my head is going to Kelly’s tonight or something,” he joked.
“I’m pretty truthful with you guys. Look, I was nervous on the first tee. But not nervous because of that (expectation). Nervous because it’s an Open Championship.
“I usually get nervous on the first tee anyway, regardless of where it is.”