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McIlroy makes strong start, Fox trots into Carnoustie contention

McIlroy makes strong start, Fox trots into Carnoustie contention

The Northern Irishman was again left frustrated after carding a round of 72 to leave himself on one under for the tournament, 13 shots off leader Erik van Rooyen after the South African produced a flawless round of 66.

"It's not often there's value in my game".

Former Masters champion Danny Willett, who has slumped from ninth to 442nd in the world, is five off the pace after recovering from a poor start with four birdies in a row.

Asked what would happen if he could combine this week's ball-striking with his putting at Bay Hill, the 29-year-old added: "I would win every week I played, simple as that".

Tournament host McIlroy carded four birdies as he opened with a two-under 70, his only blemishes coming on the fifth and the 15th at Ballyliffin.

"The more I can be just a little bit open with my lower body, I can see it a little bit better". You sometimes get in a groove, when things just happen and you hit great shots and great putts. I still played great.

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"I wasn't very much aware of my score or the situation".

Van Rooyen followed up with nine straight pars to finish at 14-under overall, four shots ahead of Kiwi Ryan Fox and Sweden's Joakim Lagergren.

"I've taken the golf course on the last three days and it seemed to work".

"A couple of the long-range putts were obviously bonuses but it was nice to see them go in and keep the momentum going because when you saw the leaderboard after a few holes we were a helluva long way back".

But the third round belonged to one man and one man only, with Van Rooyen now set to take that four shot lead into final round as the 28-year-old chases his maiden European Tour victory in just his 34th appearance.