IRVINE, Scotland (AP) — It started with a shout of “FORE LEFT!” and ended with a putt from about 7 feet that didn’t come close to finding the cup.
Rory McIlroy is making an earlier-than-planned journey south to Royal Birkdale for next week’s British Open after missing the cut by two strokes at the Scottish Open following a 1-under 71 in his second round on Friday. He was 10 shots off the lead after two days that exposed the current frailties in his wedge play and putting.
It was the world No. 4’s third missed cut in his last four events — he also failed to make the weekend at the U.S. Open and last week’s Irish Open — and the latest low point in an injury-affected 2017 for the four-time major winner.
“I’m just waiting for something,” McIlroy said. “Waiting for something, some sort of spark. Just something to go right, and the last couple of weeks haven’t been like that. Just got to keep plugging away and hopefully it turns around next week.
“I would have loved to have played more rounds going into not just the Open but the rest of the year. But I’m sort of trying to learn as I go along.”
With little wind protecting Dundonald Links, McIlroy encountered benign conditions in his bid to make up for an opening-round 74 in the British Open warmup but still came up short.
The Northern Irishman pulled his tee shot on No. 1 into a gorse bush, only to get a free drop — because the ball was ruled to have been embedded — and get up and down from a greenside bunker. He tapped in for birdie on Nos. 3 and 5, both par fives, and got into red figures for the first time this week with a close-range birdie at No. 7.
However, he needed two shots to get out of a greenside bunker on No. 13, eventually making double-bogey there for the second straight day, and went down the par-5 18th knowing he needed at least a birdie. McIlroy pulled his approach from 220 yards into the light rough, chipped to 7 feet, but his birdie putt back didn’t break and missed by some distance.
“It was a terrible putt,” said McIlroy, who has been working hard on his putting.
Of his seven birdies this week, five of them came on par fives.
McIlroy said he would be heading to Birkdale early to get in some practice rounds on one of the hardest courses on the Open rotation.
“I’d be much more worried if I went out there and shot a couple of 76s and I’m nowhere near trying to make the cut or whatever,” McIlroy said. “The difference between shooting 1-under par and 4- or 5-under par isn’t that much of a difference.
“I feel like I’m more than capable of going down there and shooting a couple of even pars or shooting something in the 60s and getting myself into contention.”
Padraig Harrington (68), Callum Shinkwin (68) and Alexander Knappe (65) shared the lead, with Ian Poulter and Andrew Dodt a shot back after 69s. Rickie Fowler, playing in McIlroy’s group, shot 70 and was two strokes off the lead.
Other players to miss the cut, which was at 1 under, were defending champion Alex Noren, Americans Patrick Reed and Jason Dufner, and former No. 1 Martin Kaymer.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80