McIlroy??carded nine bogeys and no birdies in an opening round of 80 which left him dead last of the 78 morning starters, and now requires a brilliant second round on Friday to avoid a third straight missed cut in the event.
The World No 1 was keen to bounce back from a missed cut in his defence of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last week, but admits he was nowhere near his best in tricky conditions.
???I felt off the tee it was OK and got myself in some decent positions, then closer to the green the worse I got,??? McIlroy told Sky Sports 4. ???I didn???t hit very many good iron shots and then with my putting my speed was off; I wasn???t reading them properly.
???I just lost confidence to the greens as the round went on. I was trying to birdie the last just trying to avoid breaking 80 but it didn???t quite happen.
???I just need to go out, get some birdies and try and make something happen. We???re playing the back nine last tomorrow and there???s a few chances there to make birdies and get some kind of a run going.”
McIlroy, who is hosting this week’s event through his charitable foundation and??was supported by large galleries from the sell-out 20,000??crowd, added: ???I don???t think it was trying too hard.?? It???s my fifth week in a row and I???m not saying I felt flat out there, but I was just trying to muster something up to get myself going again. Momentum was sort of difficult.
???You know what to expect when you come to an Irish Open and I???ve said for the past couple of years that I want to try and embrace it and relish the fact you???re here. You should be able to use it to your advantage but I just haven???t been able to as of yet.”
The home favourite was not alone in struggling, with playing partner and US Open champion Martin Kaymer also failing to record a single birdie in a round of 79, although the final member of the marquee group, Rickie Fowler, carded a 71 to lie two shots off the early leaders.
Fowler’s round could have been even better as he birdied the 10th and 11th before three-putting from 20 feet for par on the 12th, but the 26-year-old also spared a thought for playing partner McIlroy.
“It’s tough to see,” said Fowler, who finished second behind McIlroy in the Open at Hoylake last year and was fifth in 2011. “You don’t want to see someone struggle and not the start that he was looking for this week. I’m assuming that it’ll be a different day tomorrow for him.”