x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

McIlroy's major hopes on hold

The young Irishman is regarded a major champion of the future, but not, by his own admission, in the immediate future.

Rory McIlroy plays his tee shot on the sixth hole on Saturday.
Rory McIlroy plays his tee shot on the sixth hole on Saturday.

TURNBERRY // When Rory McIlroy made his title-winning breakthrough as a professional in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year, the young Irishman was regarded a major champion of the future. He remains so, but not, by his own admission, in the immediate future. "I still feel it's a little too early for me to win a major," said McIlroy, 20, after a disappointing third round of 74 had effectively killed off his Turnberry challenge.

"Maybe in a couple more years," added McIlroy whose position was salvaged somewhat by birdies the last three holes to compensate for bogeys at the first three. I've still got a lot of improving to do but, if I get one in the next 10 years, I will still have done it before I'm 30." McIlroy, who produced one of the highlights of the third day by hitting a three wood from 224 yards to within four feet of the seventh hole for a spectacular eagle, was frustrated by the erratic nature of his game here. "I've hit some of the best shots I have hit all year out there today, but also some of the worst," he lamented. "I just need to bring it all together. It's a bit of a timing problem, a bit of rhythm. I'm just not getting a consistent strike on it."

His fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington, who has held the Claret Jug for the past two years and also has the US PGA title in his possession, would empathise with the youngster's self-analysis. Harrington, who is two shots worse off than McIlroy at nine over par through 54 holes, knew before he arrived at Turnberry that hopes of a magnificent hat-trick were remote. He has been struggling with his game all year but reckons he has struck the ball quite well this week.

"I'm not so happy with the mental side of the game, though," he said. "That needs to be tidied up. But I'll have a couple of weeks off after tomorrow and I'll look forward to building up for the PGA." Much of that work will be spent trying to restore confidence which the putter which was such a key weapon in his golden era. "I only managed to get three putts up to the hole all day," he added, "and I three-putted all three of them. It just wasn't my day."

wjohnson@thenational.ae