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McDowell six shots off Open pace at Royal Portrush

Graeme McDowell has backed Rory McIlroy to bounce back from disappointment at the Open. Credit: INPHO

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell has carded a two-under-par 68 in his third round of the Open at Royal Portrush, leaving him six shots off the pace.

His compatriots Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke both missed the cut, with McIlroy particularly emotional to do so after staging a remarkable comeback to try to stay in contention.

G-Mac has tipped his friend to come back from disappointment and win more majors though.

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“I think Rory probably won a lot of fans last night, to show that raw emotion of how much it means to him and how much it means to all of us to be out here at Portrush,” McDowell said, of 30-year-old McIlroy’s tears at crashing out of the 148th Open.

“And for him obviously not to play the way he wants to play, the way he battled coming down the stretch, that shows a lot about him as a person.”

McIlroy rallied after a disastrous start in the opening round to card a stunning 65 in the second and miss the cut by an agonising one shot.

Rory McIlroy was gutted to miss the cut at the Open on home turf. Credit: INPHO

It’s great in sport when we see some emotions sometimes.

At times these guys look like robots up here, but we’re not robots - we hurt and we hurt a lot sometimes, and it’s a tough sport.

– Graeme McDowell

“He’s still a young man, he’s only 30-years-old, he’s in the shape of his life,” McDowell said.

“Mentally, he’s in a great place and meanwhile there’s a lot of good players out here. It’s hard to win, hard to win major championships, hard to win any championship.

“I’ve huge belief in him that he’ll win soon and he’ll win several. Double digits is well within his capabilities. But it’s a tough ask out here.

“He’ll get unfairly criticised this week for not playing well, but he had a lot of pressure on his shoulders. It’s very difficult coming home and trying to do what he tried to do this week, with all that pressure and the spotlight.”

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Saturday also saw long-time Royal Portrush club pro Gary McNeill asked to tee it up in the first group of the day, as the odd number of players meant one competitor was short of a playing partner.

“I might need a lie down after all that,” he said, after being paired up with Englishman Paul Waring for a round that included holing a monster putt on the 17th green.

Meanwhile, Co Offaly’s Shane Lowry remained top of the leaderboard and hoping to stay among the frontrunners as he teed off on Saturday afternoon.

He faced stiff competition from the likes of England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood, and American JB Holmes though.

World number one Brooks Koepka was also among those in action on Saturday afternoon.

Golf's world number one Brooks Koepka at the Open at Royal Portrush. Credit: INPHO