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Sports

July 19, 2013

Johnson leads at Muirfield, Woods lurks

(Continued)

Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 2 in the world, is still trying to recapture the form he showed last August, when he won his second major title with a runaway victory at the PGA Championship.

At the moment, he’s not even close.

The 24-year-old from Northern Ireland hacked his way to a 79 — the second-worst round of his Open career and the continuation of a baffling slump that began after he changed equipment.

“I wish I could stand here and tell you guys what’s wrong and how to make it right,” McIlroy said. “I don’t know what you can do. You just have to try and play your way out. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking out there and I’m unconscious.”

The only time McIlroy shot worse in the Open was an 80 at St. Andrews in 2010, but that was more a product of a brutal wind than poor shots.

This time, he could blame only himself. Heck, he didn’t even beat birthday boy Nick Faldo, who stirred up a bit of a tempest this week when he advised McIlroy to spend more time focused on golf rather than off-the-course pursuits.

Faldo, who turned 56 yesterday, matched McIlroy’s score even though he’s barely played at all the last three years.

Under brilliant blue skies, the temperature climbed into the low 80s and the wind off the Firth of Forth wasn’t too much of a hindrance for the morning starters. Some spectators broke out umbrellas, only it was to fend off rays instead of rain.

The greens were slick as ice, having baked in the unseasonably dry Scottish weather over the past few weeks, and several golfers — Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter among them — complained about the tough pin placements given the speed of the putting surfaces.

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