Rory on U.S. letdown: ‘Great day until it wasn’t’


NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — More than three weeks after his collapse in the final three holes of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, Rory McIlroy on Wednesday called the final round a “great day until it wasn’t.”

McIlroy missed short putts on Nos. 16 and 18 to help give Bryson DeChambeau a one-stroke victory and his second U.S. Open title after the LIV Golf League captain hit a chip shot from 55 yards away in a fairway bunker to about 4 feet and made a par putt to finish 6 under.

“I got over it pretty quickly,” McIlroy said during a news conference at the Genesis Scottish Open, where he will try to defend his title at The Renaissance Club. “The few days after it were pretty tough at times, but I feel like I’ve done a good job of thinking about it rationally and constructively and taking what I need from it and trying to learn from it. But like for the most part it was a great day. I keep saying to people, ‘It was a great day until it wasn’t.'”

McIlroy, the No. 2-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, had a two-stroke lead after moving to 8 under with birdies on Nos. 9, 10, 12 and 13. But he carded bogeys on Nos. 15, 16 and 18 to fall back to 5 under. On the par-3 15th, he hit his tee shot over the green and couldn’t get up and down for par.

McIlroy said he started feeling uncomfortable after hitting his first putt on No. 16. After waiting for Patrick Cantlay to putt, McIlroy hit a 2½-footer too hard and his ball lipped out. He hadn’t missed a putt inside 3 feet all season.

“Like halfway down the first putt, it looked like it could be a birdie, and it ran a foot by where I thought it was going to finish,” McIlroy said. “Then I marked it, and then Patrick was hitting his putt and he can take his time. Obviously, greens are tough. It’s the end of a Sunday at the U.S. Open. Like you have to be really deliberate in what you’re doing.”

McIlroy said he read his second putt on the 16th right of center but pulled it just a touch.

“Probably started it straight, maybe a touch left of center, and the green grabbed it, and it caught the left edge,” McIlroy said. “Wasn’t a terrible putt, but I definitely felt a little bit of uneasiness before I hit it.”

After pulling his tee shot into the native area on No. 18, McIlroy could only run his approach up the fairway. His ball stopped just short of the green, and he chipped to 4 feet. McIlroy said he wanted to make sure he didn’t blast his par putt past the hole if he missed. He didn’t make the par putt.

“I just left it on the wrong side of the hole,” McIlroy said. “I got above the hole, where the hole was cut on top of the little slope and ended up pretty dry and crusty around the hole. And the chip shot just ran out a little bit and got past the hole. I hit that putt very, very easy, and obviously just missed on the low side and it still went a good 3 or 4 feet by.

“So I was probably playing it, I don’t know, like two, 2½ cups left, whatever it was. There was a lot of swing to it, especially with how easy I was hitting it. Like I said, if it was match play and the next one didn’t matter, I would have approached the putt differently.”

McIlroy was trying to win his first major championship since the 2014 PGA Championship. He will carry a nearly 10-year major drought into next week’s Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Course in Scotland, where he will once again be among the favorites to win the Claret Jug.

Since another heartbreaking finish in a major, McIlroy hasn’t played a competitive round. He withdrew from the Travelers Championship, the last signature event of the PGA Tour season, and spent three days in New York.

“I think as you achieve more in the game, you can soften the blow, if you look at everything I’ve been able to accomplish,” McIlroy said. “It’s been a while since I’ve won a major. It hurt, but I felt worse after some other losses. I felt worse after Augusta in ’11, and I felt worse after St Andrews [the 2022 Open Championship]. It was up there with the tough losses but not the toughest.”

McIlroy will look to bounce back at this week’s Scottish Open. In last year’s tournament, McIlroy posted birdies on the final two holes, hitting his approach from 205 yards to 11 feet on No. 18. His birdie putt gave him a 72-hole total of 15 under, one better than Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre.

“When I look back on that day, just like I look back on some of my toughest moments in my career, I’ll learn a lot from it, and I’ll hopefully put that to good use,” McIlroy said. “It’s something that’s been a bit of a theme throughout my career. I’ve been able to take those tough moments and turn them into great things not very long after that.”

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