'Tale of two nines' frustrates Mcllroy at British Open

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Rory McIlroy lamented a "tale of two nines" after his promising third round of the British Open at Royal St. George's on Saturday ended in frustrating fashion.

The Northern Irishman, who made the cut with just a shot to spare after two rounds of 70, surged into the top 20 after making five birdies in a superb front nine of 31.

But it was a different story on the way back, with McIlroy coming home in 38 for a 69 that left him one under par -- 10 shots behind overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen.

It is seven years since McIlroy won the last of his four major championships and a round that started so well went astray with dropped shots at the 11th and 13th holes.

McIlroy then hurled a long iron club to the turf after pulling his tee shot on the par-five 14th into the rough.

He dealt rather better with the disappointment of seeing a par putt on the 15th 'horseshoe' round the rim of the hole and stay out.

As the crowd groaned and sighed, McIlroy responded to his moment of ill fortune with a wry smile.

While there were still a few loud shouts of "Come on Rory" from spectators, the muffled and even whispered words of support from other fans in a large gallery at a sun-drenched Sandwich in southeast England were as much expressions of sympathy as of encouragement.

- 'Stretched the course' -

"Sort of a tale of two nines," McIlroy said after walking off the 18th green.

"I played great on the front nine, hit some really good iron shots and converted some putts and really got it going," he added.

"Then the back nine played tough. They're sort of tucking the pins away. They've stretched the golf course out to as long as it can play.

"I was hitting 2-iron into the 11th hole, that par-3, and that was sort of -- I missed a short putt there for par and it kind of killed the momentum I had."

Nevertheless, McIlroy, the 2014 British Open champion at Royal Liverpool, took heart from the way he started Saturday's round.

"It's just a matter of trying to keep that going and try to turn those nine-hole stretches into 18-hole stretches, and then those 18-hole stretches into whole tournaments," he said.

"It's getting there."

jdg/pb

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