Ilonen leads, McIlroy crashes out

European Tour

Mikko Ilonen held on to his two-shot lead at the Irish Open on Friday, but Rory McIlroy missed the cut.

Ilonen mixed five birdies with two bogeys to take his total to 10 under par, two shots clear of Graeme McDowell, Robert Rock and Romain Wattel.

“I got to my goal – I wanted to get to double digits,” said Ilonen.

“I got there on 16 but then I lost it on 17, so it was good to birdie the last hole. I wanted to get to at least ten under, and I just did that.

“I said yesterday, one shot at a time, one hole at a time. It’s a long week, but two rounds of golf, it’s a long way from here. Got to keep the head down and go one shot at a time.”

Aside from McDowell getting himself into the mix with a superb 66, the other big story of the day was Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut after his 69 did not prove enough to erase the damage of a first-round 74.

“There’s always a first time for everything,” said McDowell, who like McIlroy has a poor record at his national championship. “I’ve been unhappy with my game now for a few months, really getting frustrated with myself in general and trying to be a little too perfect. I tried to loosen myself up a little bit and try to enjoy my golf a little bit. I’m surprised and excited to be in contention.”

McIlroy said: “It’s very frustrating. To make six birdies and an eagle and shoot just two under means there were a lot of mistakes and wasteful shots.

“To miss the cut for the second year in a row is not a nice position to be in. I don’t know what else to say, it’s very disappointing.”

“I just need to tighten it all up and become a lot more consistent, make the bad shots a little bit better and not be as wasteful around the greens. If I can do that, I know my game is right there. I’ve got a couple weeks off now to work on my game a little bit, play some links golf and get ready for the Scottish Open and the Open.”

Rock, meanwhile, lost in a play-off to Shane Lowry at this event back in 2009, but still claimed the first prize because Lowry was an amateur.

He also finished fifth in 2006 and second to Paul Casey last year.

“It’s a tournament I like playing but I think it’s more the time of year,” Rock said. “I enjoy the tournaments at the start of the year (he held off Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to win in Abu Dhabi in 2012) but when we travel further afield I don’t play well and it batters your confidence.

“It takes time to rebuild that and it seems to be this time of year it comes back.”

Italian Marco Crespi and English duo Simon Khan and Matthew Nixon were three off the pace on seven under.

“I made a nice birdie on the first and then hit it straight in the water on the next,” said Nixon. “I made double there and I thought this could be a long round of golf. I made some nice swings after that and for once my putts all went in.”

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