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Many have claimed Rory McIlroy to be the best driver of the golf ball the game has ever seen.

Others disagree, and those who do had a strong argument on Friday at The K Club.

McIlroy hit only five of 14 fairways during his second round of the Horizon Irish Open, as he found the short grass just once on the back nine.

Everyone in the field this week has discussed the importance of finding the fairways at the 2006 Ryder Cup venue. The rough that lines these narrow fairways is whispy and thick, which can quickly turn a birdie hole into a difficult one.

“You’ve got to drive it well here,” McIlroy said in his pre-tournament press conference Wednesday. “The rough is very thick, so there is very much a premium on getting the ball in play off the tee.”

Rory McIlroy, DP World Tour, Horizon Irish Open

Rory McIlroy plays his second shot on the 17th hole during the second round of the 2023 Horizon Irish Open.
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

“But then from there, it’s not the longest golf course in the world, so you can score. But to me, it’s all about putting the ball in play off the tee here this week because the rough is pretty penal.”

At the par-4 17th, a dogleg left that runs along the River Liffey, McIlroy pushed his tee shot right of the fairway. His ball nestled in a whispy lie while trees blocked out his shot to the green.

This errant tee shot marked his fourth consecutive missed fairway, and unfortunately for the Northern Irishman, he had to pay a steep price. McIlroy carded a double-bogey six, which completely negated a hole-out eagle he made at the previous hole, the par-5 16th.

Luckily for him, the par-5 18th is one of the easiest holes on the course. After missing the fairway again on the last hole—despite hitting a 361-yard drive—McIlroy managed to bounce back with a birdie, which dropped him to 2-under on the day.

He carded a 2-under 70 and sits at 5-under for the championship, eight shots behind Jordan Smith of England and Shubhankar Sharma of India.

Should McIlroy make a move and try to contend, he will need his driver to cooperate.

At the very least, he will need to work out the kinks ahead of the Ryder Cup in Rome. He has six more competitive rounds to do so as he heads to England for the BMW PGA Championship next week.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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