The world of golf is asking what has happened to Rory McIlroy as he bungled his way around the Portrush Open.
No one was expecting his first day 79 on the course where he grew up and learned his trade as a kid.
But the day put McIlroy’s career into perspective and showed how stark his decline as a major championship winner has become.
McIlroy has not won a major for five years and now is regularly finishing right or more shots behind the winners.
That’s a huge margin for a top pro against his rivals.
Royal Portrush was meant to change all that, but seems to have cemented his rock-bottom reputation.
8 shots down in 30 minutes
In a distraught display of how not to play, Rory McIlroy was already eight shots down on the first hole.
He hit out of bounds, smashed someone’s mobile phone with a wayward tee shot and took a penalty drop all before 10.30am.
And the day just got worse. He missed an easy putt on the 16thand got lost in the rough on the 18th– piling up another five lost shots against the leaders.
The question is not does McIlroy have the ability to come back, but does he have the nerve?
Tiger Woods was lost in the wilderness for nearly 12 years before recovering to win the US Masters earlier this year.
McIlroy scored his last major win in 2014.
Whatever triggered McIlroy’s mistakes, the way he handled himself on course was embarrassing for a player of any class. Before going out to the tee, he expressed how much he was looking forward to play and that he planned to enjoy himself on a course he intimately knows and loves.
Of course, there’s still time to pull some shots back, but making the cut seems a stretch for him.
“Obviously, I’m pretty sure anyone starting with a 79 doesn’t think about winning at this point,” he said.
“But if I can find the fairway, I think I can go out there and shoot something in the mid-60s and be around for the weekend.”
Out in front on Day 2 are American JB Holmes and Irishman Shane Lowry on eight under par, a stroke ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood, shooting seven under par.