McIlroy trying to move on from devastating US Open loss

Rory McIlroy's recovery from a devastating U.S. Open loss was to walk the High Line in Manhattan

ByDOUG FERGUSON AP golf writer
July 10, 2024, 7:57 AM

NORTH BERWICK, Scotland -- Rory McIlroy got back into his own little world a few days too late.

The immediate aftermath of a U.S. Open he threw away — missing two putts in the 3-foot range — included a previously planned trip to Manhattan. McIlroy said he walked the High Line a couple of times, able to be a face in the crowd of America's busiest city.

“Alone with my thoughts for a couple days, which was good,” McIlroy said Wednesday at the Genesis Scottish Open, his first time back from a most devastating loss at Pinehurst No. 2. “They were hard, but at the same time, as each day went by it became easier to focus on the positives and then to think about the future instead of what had just happened.”

What happened is hard to forget.

McIlroy missed a par putt from 30 inches on the 16th hole in the final round. And then he missed a downhill slider from just inside 4 feet on the 18th, paving the way for Bryson DeChambeau to win another U.S. Open and McIlroy to extend his decade without a major.

He attributed it to losing concentration in the final hour, becoming aware of what was happening around him, particularly with DeChambeau. Even as McIlroy stood over a tough putt on the 18th, he wondered if DeChambeau would be able to make par from the left rough behind him. McIlroy said he hit the putt too softly to protect it from going 10 feet by.

“So it sort of got me out of my own little world a little bit,” McIlroy said.

He said there were lessons learned, and now he's back to work. McIlroy is the defending champion at the Scottish Open, where he drilled a 2-iron from 201 yards into a fierce wind to set up a short birdie last year and deny Scotland's own Robert MacIntyre.

And next week is the final major of the year, a British Open at Royal Troon. McIlroy said he sees that as nothing more than another opportunity to win his first major in 10 years, not any occasion for redemption.

The U.S. Open hurt, though he insists he has had it rougher. He wept in a cart after missing out on a grand chance at St. Andrews, when he couldn't buy a putt and Cameron Smith shot 64 to win at the home of golf.

He also referenced the 2011 Masters, when he lost a four-shot lead with an 80 in the final round. That hurts as time goes on because it's the one major McIlroy hasn't won.

“It was up there with the tough losses, but not the toughest,” he said.

What McIlroy said he does not regret is his quick departure after DeChambeau's remarkable bunker shot from 55 yards on the 18th to set up a 4-foot par putt and the win. McIlroy would not speak to any media, walked straight to his car and the tires spit up gravel as he left Pinehurst as fast as he could.

“There's nothing that I could have said. It would have been good because you guys would have been able to write something about it or have a few quotes from me,” McIlroy said. “No offense. You guys were the least of my worries.”

McIlroy described the final round of the U.S. Open as “a great day until it wasn't.”

Most curious was when he said it started to come undone — a 30-inch putt on the 16th hole. It was far more routine than the putt on the 18th that he said required him to aim a few cups to the left because it broke so sharply and had the potential to race by the hole.

“You stand there, it's hard not to either start thinking about the future or notice before Bryson's ball is in the fairway or that sort of stuff,” he said. “But again, that’s on me to make sure that I’m in the right head space.”

McIlroy said it wasn't a terrible putt, but he missed at a terrible time. It cost him a one-shot lead, and the final bogey — and DeChambeau's great par save — decided it.

There is one piece of history McIlroy hopes to relive — his ability to bounce back. Two months after he lost the big lead at the Masters in 2011, he won his first major at the U.S. Open.

He has two weeks in Scotland to try to move on from Pinehurst, the second week at Royal Troon getting far more attention. A month away is his bid for a gold medal in the Olympics.

For McIlroy, the goal is to move ahead.

“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,” he 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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