|Rory McIlroy is struggling with his golf game weeks before his defense at the U.S. Open. (Getty Images)|
DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy believes it's not so much a matter of too many crooked tee shots that are ending his tournament weeks early, but too many crooked numbers.
For the third time in as many global starts, the former world No. 1 was packing his bags early and headed out of town, the victim of another missed cut at a premium event.
McIlroy had a quadruple bogey in the first round and two double bogeys in Friday's second round, with the latter leading to a disastrous 79 and another early exit.
“It just seems like every time I go out there I make one or two big numbers and that sort of throws me, a couple doubles on the back nine,” he said. “Just those big numbers at the beginning are killing me, and I just need to get those off the card and I'll be okay.”
Well, perhaps. The rest of it wasn't scintillating, either.
McIlroy, who shot 79 in the second round last week at Wentworth outside London, didn't have a birdie on the scorecard in the second round.
"He's obviously frustrated," said playing partner and world No. 1 Luke Donald. “This game does that to you. But just having watched Rory the last few days, he's not far away.
“He made a couple of careless errors and made some big numbers on a couple holes that was the difference this week. I'm sure once he posts that one good round, that one solid run of maybe a couple rounds or a tournament, this will be a blur and he'll forget about it quickly."
Having a short memory isn't necessarily an option. McIlroy is entered in next week's tour event at Memphis, then heads to San Francisco seven days later to defend his breakthrough title at the U.S. Open.
McIlroy, 23, last missed three straight cuts in August, 2008, on the European Tour.
“I don't feel like the scores are actually reflecting how I'm hitting the ball,” McIlroy said, almost shrugging. “I was able to string nine good holes together [in the first round]. I just need to keep working on it and try and string 18 good holes together and then try and string two days together and obviously three days and ultimately four."
The killer hole Friday was No. 11, when he hit his second shot into the slope fronting a meandering creek and tried to chop it back into the fairway. Instead, the ball caromed off the slope and splashed backward into the water.
"I've made some careless errors out there, probably did things I shouldn't have and taken the safer route straight away instead,” he admitted. “But I hit some good shots out there. I'm definitely hitting the ball better than I did last week, so I can see an improvement there.
"But I've still got a long way to go."
Yes and no. Memphis is perhaps a 90-minute plane flight away.