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Confused McIlroy prepares to play his way out of slump

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his putt on the 18th green during his second round of the British Open golf Championship at Muirfie
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his putt on the 18th green during his second round of the British Open golf Championship at Muirfie

By Ed Osmond

GULLANE, Scotland (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy will try to play his way out of a dramatic form slump with a heavy schedule of tournaments in the United States including his PGA Championship title defense in New York next month.

The world number two sloped out of the British Open on Friday, looking a dejected figure after dismal rounds of 79 and 75 meant he missed the cut in the third major of the season for the first time.

The 24-year-old McIlroy complained of feeling "brain-dead" on the Muirfield links but he did at least try to explain the causes of his problems.

"I don't know if I can single out one thing," he told reporters. "I think it's been a combination of things to be honest.

"I think the schedule hasn't been quite right, the swing hasn't been quite right. A combination of those has led to, I guess, sloppy play, not sharp enough."

McIlroy admitted he was struggling with his game and is taking a few days off before the August 1-4 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, one of six tournaments he is playing in the next eight weeks.

"I'm going to look forward to Akron, four really good competitive rounds there," he said. "It's a great prep for the PGA. It's a place I've done well before."

McIlroy, twice a major champion and former world number one, said he was happy with his preparations for the British Open.

"I can't really be disappointed in myself because I don't feel like I've done anything wrong in terms of like under- preparing," he said.

"I've done everything I could. It just didn't work out for me."

The Northern Irishman has struggled since changing his club manufacturer this season, walking off in the middle of a round at the Honda Classic in Florida and mangling one of his wedges during the final round of a disappointing U.S. Open last month.

"I guess I have a clearer picture of what I need to work on and what I need to do to put things right," said McIlroy.

"Sometimes this game can feel further away than it actually is. And obviously at the end of yesterday it couldn't have felt much further away."

McIlroy, who won last year's PGA Championship by a record eight shots, said that after failing to make a fast start at Muirfield on Friday he treated it like a practice round.

"I decided that I was going to hit driver every hole that I could because that's going to be a big factor the next few weeks and I actually drove the ball pretty well," he said.

"I ended up playing the last 11 holes under par. That was encouraging but obviously I'm disappointed to be going home for the weekend. It's the first time I've missed a cut at the Open so it's obviously quite disappointing."

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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