Nightmare start for McIlroy

Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

Gullane - World number two Rory McIlroy endured a horror start to the British Open on Thursday, collapsing to a eight-over 79, already 13 shots off the early lead held by American Zach Johnson.

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McIlroy was despairing over the state of his golf game saying he felt at times "unconscious" and "brain-dead" on the course.

McIlroy's flop at Muirfield was just the latest in a season corrupted by a change of golfing equipment he made at the start of the year when he was ranked world number one.

"I don't know what you can do. You've just got to try and play your way out of it. But it's nothing to do with technique. It's all mental out there," McIlroy said.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm walking around out there and I'm unconscious. I just need to try to think more. I'm trying to focus and trying to concentrate.

"But I can't really fathom it at the minute, and it's hard to stand up here and tell you guys (press) what's really wrong

"It's just so brain dead. Seriously, I feel like I've been walking around out there like that for the last couple of months. I'm trying to get out of it. I just don't quite know why."

While others tore up the front nine early morning on a fast but fair Muirfield course, McIlroy struggled to the turn in one over before two consecutive bogeys followed by a double bogey on the 379-yard, par-4 12th.

It was the worst possible start for a player looking to silence those who think he is somehow distracted and not fully focused on his golf.

A birdie at the par-three 13th gave some relief, but it was short-lived as the 24-year-old Ulsterman was left shaking his head in disbelief as his long putt at the 15th raced over the rock-hard green and buried itself in a bunker.

A second double-bogey was the end result of that and he looked a disconsolate figure trudging off the 18th green with the question mark around his current form beginning to take on giant proportions.

McIlroy had earlier in the week hit back at his critics, insisting his game was "heading in the right direction" on the eve of the Open and asking "what's the big deal?" about his recent slump.

The Ulsterman has failed to win a tournament all year after changing his management company and deciding to switch equipment providers, from Titleist to Nike.

Some pundits have suggested his high-profile relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki may also be contributing to his decline.

McIlroy, hoever, said that a lack of focus was not the problem.

"No, not at all, no, no. It's not that at all. No, I'm fully focused on the golf out there," he said.

"But it's been fully focused on each and every shot and what you really want to do with it and visualization and everything. It's just something I've never experienced before."

McIlroy, whose 79 matched the score of 56-year-old Nick Faldo, now faces an uphill struggle just to make it through to the weekend and he vowed to try and loosen up his game in a bid to throw off the shackles.

"I want to try to be here for the weekend. But the thing that I need to do tomorrow is just go out there and freewheel it and try and make birdies and try and play with that little bit of whatever it is I have usually," he said.

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England 92/4 (28 ov)
Pakistan 326
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England 92/4 (28 ov)
Pakistan 326
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