McIlroy shines in Irish gloom
DUBLIN – Tournament host Rory McIlroy insisted common sense prevailed in having play stopped on an already rain-interrupted third day of the Irish Open on Saturday.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy reacts on the 3rd green during the 80th Masters Golf Tournament on April 10, 2016, in Augusta, Georgia
McIlroy was three shots clear of his rivals, at nine under par and standing on the 16th tee near 2020 local time (1920GMT) when he became locked in talks with a European Tour official over the value of teeing up in the deteriorating light and continuing rain at the K. Club.
The four-time Major winner clearly did not want to play his tee shot and then have played called for the day after two prior lengthy stoppages.
Play had been suspended firstly for two hours and 18 minutes but no sooner had the players ventured back onto the course and there was a further one-and-a-half delay ahead of a 1955 local time (1855GMT) resumption.
McIlroy had moved to nine under par with a second birdie of his round at the 10th hole and on return following the second stoppage.
Fortunately, common sense prevailed and with McIlroy winning through as play was halted at 2028 local time, and with the third round to continue at 0730am local time Sunday.
“I was getting feedback that people around the 16th green were complaining how dark it was getting and then on the 17th tee what with all the trees surrounding the green,” said McIlroy.
“As well, I had trouble reading my putt on the 15th green so I didn’t know where to hit it and I said to my caddy: ‘I’ll just hit it straight’.
“But they made the right call as it was just getting so dark and I just was not comfortable hitting that tee shot at 16, and also at the thought of having to come back in the morning to play my second shot.”
McIlroy has finally put himself in position to end a six-month winless drought with a bogey-free 15 holes and three shots clear of Masters champion, Danny Willett who will restart his round also on the 16th tee at six under par.
“Today was a day just to hang in there and not make too many mistakes and that’s what I said on Friday that I wanted to do today,” McIlroy said.
“I’ve had no bogeys in 15 holes and that is good, and while I left a few out there I cannot complain having a three shot lead and with three holes to play to try and get into double digit figures.”
Scotland’s Russell Knox enjoys the clubhouse lead shooting a two under par and finish on five under par.
Knox had cracked the face of his driver in a round of 75 on day one and after borrowing a replacement, the current world number 38 added a second round 66 and is now in line for a hopeful top-three finish on a first visit to Ireland.
“I was pathetic the first day, brilliant on Friday but not too great today,” said Knox.
Frenchman Sebastien Gros moved to a then share of second place at six under par when he eagled the 16th.
However, the 26-year old, who won twice on last year’s secondary Challenge Tour, then put three balls into the water at the par four 17th, including two off the tee and a third into the water guarding the green in taking a quadruple bogey eight.
The Frenchman ended with a round of 73 and a clubhouse share of 14th place.