World Golf number one Rory McIlroy had another shocker of a day yesterday on the opening 18 holes at the Irish Open. The golfing gods seemed to have deserted him as he shot a woeful 9-over par round of 80, leaving him teetering once more on the edge of elimination from a tournament before the serious action begins. He will need to improve dramatically to make the cut after day two.

Harrington in form

There was, however, a welcome return to form for another player from the Emerald Isle. The affable Padraig Harrington, a three-time winner at the majors, was the joint leader after the opening round with a 4-under par score.

He shared the early spoils with the German Maximilian Kieffer, with Denmark's Soren Hansen just a shot further back. Spain's Sergio Garcia had similar troubles to McIlroy, carding a disappointing 4-over par round.

More of the same

With the dust having hardly settled on his missed cut at Wentworth last week, McIlroy was again well below the standards expected from his game. By the turn he had already had five bogeys on his scorecard and it got little better in the closing nine holes, with another four shots slipping away. It is perhaps not as big a surprise as one might expect though. Despite playing on home soil and having the backing of a partisan crowd, he has failed to make the cut on his last two appearances at the event.

It could well be a case of third time 'unlucky' at this rate.

Off-course commitments

The suspicion is that he is trying to do too much, with everyone seemingly wanting to get a piece of the genial Irishman. Globetrotting around the world, in America one minute, Europe the next, can take its toll even on a sprightly 26-year-old.

Add into that the countless stream of media, sponsors, autograph signings and numerous other commitments he seems tied into and it is perhaps not a surprise that the golf can dip at times.

Temporary blip?

There was little evidence of what has occurred in the last few weeks, as he was cutting a swathe through the field at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina earlier this month.

His seven-shot victory there had included a career low round score of 61. The comparison with his game yesterday at Royal County Down was marked. No one facet of his game seemed in top order, as from tee to green he was decidedly off-key for once.

Generous offer

McIlroy had made the generous offer before a ball had been struck in anger to donate his winnings from the event to his 'Rory Foundation'. The charity has already raised a sizeable sum from his previous efforts on their behalf in the past. He will hope that he can swell the coffers further over the next few days.

Looking for improvement

Golf's top player will seek to salvage something from the second round and if possible extend his stay into the weekend.

With the US Open only three weeks away, he will want to regain his focus again ahead of that challenge. Although it is common for players of his ilk to focus their energies on success at the majors above all other tournaments, it is rare for sportspeople to be able to turn their form off and on at will. Improved form going into that event would provide a fillip no doubt to his ambitions of further major success, as he looks to add to the four that he has already won.