sport news MARTIN SAMUEL: Rory McIlroy's mask slips after round that never was at The Open

sport news MARTIN SAMUEL: Rory McIlroy's mask slips after round that never was at The Open
sport news MARTIN SAMUEL: Rory McIlroy's mask slips after round that never was at The Open

Everyone thinks they can read an athlete’s body language. The hurried, anxious walk to take a penalty kick; the nervous shuffling at the batsman’s crease; stepping away from the putt at a vital moment; the first boxer to drop his eyes at the weigh-in.

And sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. The penalty goes in, the batsman makes a hundred, the putt drops like a stone, the shy fighter becomes the champion.

One thing we can all agree on, however, is this: Basil Fawlty is not a good look for anyone. Bent double, anguished, agonised: that is a sure sign things will not go well. Rory McIlroy would like it to be thought that he is absolutely at peace with his golf game, but every now and then the mask slips. It did on the seventh at Royal St George’s on Friday.

Rory McIlroy's body language told the full story on day two of the Open in Sandwich, Kent

Rory McIlroy's body language told the full story on day two of the Open in Sandwich, Kent

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This year’s Open course is a par 70. It contains just two par five holes. Par fives are the professionals’ friend. Every tournament pro’s eyes light up when he sees one. They almost all have the game to reach the green in two on a good day, or with a following wind. So par fives are opportunities.

A run of 15 golfers at the par five seventh on Friday — game 30 to game 34 — shot 10 birdies, one eagle and no bogeys. Par fives are where the pros make hay.

And McIlroy was in position A as he stood over his second shot on the seventh.

Heart of the fairway, aiming for the heart of the green. Here was the chance he needed to get his momentum going.

So when he pushed his second shot into a bunker short and right of the target, his physical collapse, almost in stages like a demolished cooling tower, revealed the frustration he works so hard to hide.

The Ulsterman set out with hopes of building on his solid opening round score on Friday

The Ulsterman set out with hopes of building on his solid opening round score on Friday

However, McIlroy was a picture of anguish as he failed to make headway in a frustrating round

However, McIlroy was a picture of anguish as he failed to make headway in a frustrating round

It was a similar move to the one John Cleese devised for that moment in The Psychiatrist when Basil Fawlty’s impotent fury at his circumstances becomes overwhelming.

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Bent double, falling to his haunches, covering his head with his jacket, he ends up on the floor. Arsene Wenger — similar physique — came close on occasions during his last days at Arsenal. So, too, did McIlroy.

Slowly, he sank to his knees in disbelief at what he had done, the club stretched out flat on the grass in front of him. Later, he would try to give the impression that golf was scarcely important in his life.

It is hard to believe this. Friday was close to perfect on the Kent coast. The sun shone, the wind — certainly when McIlroy was out — was barely a factor. Several players came close to the course record. Collin Morikawa started at three under, finished nine under. Emiliano Grillo started level par, finished six under.

It was a day when a player of McIlroy’s talent could have made real inroads.

The 32-year-old's frustrations boiled over as he let slip his mask of peace on the course

The 32-year-old's frustrations boiled over as he let slip his mask of peace on the course

McIlroy's demeanour was akin to Basil Fawlty

McIlroy's demeanour was akin to Basil Fawlty

Instead, he

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