Golf: Misses on 2 short putts cost McIlroy

Published 8:07 pm Sunday, June 16, 2024

Rory McIlroy’s two missed short putts cost him a shot at winning the U.S. Open



By DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports Writer

PINEHURST — Rory McIlroy put himself in position to end a decade-long drought in the majors, and answer a whole lot of questions about his ability to get it done, only to miss two short putts Sunday that left him peeling out of the parking lot in disappointment.

McIlroy signed for a final-round 69 that left him 5 under for the championship, and had to watch on TV in the scoring room as Bryson DeChambeau finished behind him. The big-hitting DeChambeau did what McIlroy could not — got it done around the green — when he got up-and-down for par from 55 yards in a bunker short of the 18th green for a 71 and a one-shot victory.

“Rory was going on a heater, and he slipped up a couple on the way coming in, and I just kept staying the course,” DeChambeau said. “I can’t believe that up-and-down on the last.”

McIlroy wasted no time making his escape. He climbed into an SUV in the players’ parking lot, his clubs loaded in the back, and briefly spun the tires in the gravel as he left without taking any questions from the media.

His silence spoke volumes about how crushing this loss must have felt.

The first putt McIlroy will rue until his next chance in a major — maybe the rest of his career, if he never wins a fifth — came at the par-4 16th hole. He was clinging to a one-shot lead over DeChambeau, hit a towering iron to the middle of the green, then hit a nice lag putt to 30 inches — and missed, for his second consecutive bogey.

The second came about 30 minutes later, when McIlroy walked toward the 18th green tied for the lead. He had chopped to the front of the putting surface after getting a bad break off the tee, his ball hard up against some wire brush, and proceeded to hit a pitch up the slope toward the hole. But his par putt from 3 feet, 9 inches, slipped on by for one last bogey.

That shot that proved to be the difference.

The 35-year-old McIlroy was the runner-up at Los Angeles Country Club last year, too, and said afterward: “I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another major championship.” He now has finished in the top 10 of the U.S. Open each of the past six years, including a tie for fifth two years ago at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

McIlroy also was second at the Masters two years ago, and tied for second at the British Open in 2018. And with each near miss in the majors, the pressure seems to grow on the Northern Irishman to end a drought dating to the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla.

He was in the hunt from the opening round at Pinehurst, shooting 5-under 65 on Thursday. He came back to the field a bit with a second-round 72, but rebounded with a 69 that put McIlroy with Patrick Cantlay in the penultimate group on Sunday.

The two had feuded during the Ryder Cup last year in Italy, but there was no lingering animosity. In fact, the two wished each other luck on the first tee, then got down to the business of trying to win one of the toughest tests in golf.

McIlroy was up to the challenge off the tee all week. He tied for third in fairways in regulation, missing the penal native areas as well as anyone until the 18th on Sunday, and he finished second only to DeChambeau in driving distance.

Yet it was on the slippery, turtle-backed, downright diabolical Donald Ross-designed greens that his U.S. Open was lost.

McIlroy played the first 69 holes of the championship without missing a putt inside 4 feet; he proceeded to miss two in his last three holes. The first of them was the first time he had missed a putt under 3 feet all season, and the second short miss left McIlroy to watch DeChambeau raise the trophy that he won himself 13 years ago.


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