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Will Break From Golf Allow Rory McIlroy to Get Over US Open Loss

By: | Tue 18 Jun 2024

Heaven alone knows what has been going through Rory McIlroy’s mind since he missed that tiddler on the 72nd green at Pinehurst, thus handing the US Open to Bryson DeChambeau.

So it should surprise nobody that he decided to withdraw from the Travelers Championship and take a break from golf until he defends his Scottish Open title in July.

There are those who will accuse him of having taken the easy way out but in many ways you cannot blame him. Had he opted to play this week he would have been bombarded with questions about those missed putts on the 16th and 18th greens.

He wrote on social media: "[Sunday] was a tough day, probably the toughest I've had in my nearly 17 years as a professional golfer. As I reflect on my week I will rue a few things over the course of the tournament, mostly the two missed putts on 16 and 18 on the final day.

"As I always try to do, I'll look at the positives of the week that far outweigh the negatives. As I said at the start of the tournament, I feel closer to winning my next major championship than I ever have.

"The one word I would describe my career as is resilient. I've shown my resilience over and over again in the last 17 years and I will again. I'm going to take a few weeks away from the game to process everything and build myself back up for the defence of my Scottish Open and The Open at Royal Troon."

When he won the US PGA Championship way back in 2014 he joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in an elite club to have secured four majors by the age of 25. Greatness was predicted for him, with many believing he had a genuine shot at getting close to Nicklaus’ total of 18 majors.

Who would ever have believed that 10 years later he would still be looking for major number five?

Rory McIlroy

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

There have been plenty of near-misses, but nothing as painful as this. This was a capitulation of the highest order. As Nick Faldo said: "That's going to haunt Rory for the rest of his life. Rory will be broken-hearted, so I feel for him. He's going to be gutted, absolutely gutted.”

When Xander Schauffele beat Bryson DeChambeau to win the 2024 US PGA Championship in May, DeChambeau was waiting by the 18th green to warmly congratulate him. It was an impressive gesture from a golfer who must have been bitterly disappointed. And where was McIlroy as DeChambeau celebrated on the final green? Heading for his car.

When Cameron Smith beat him at St Andrews in 2022, McIlroy left the home of golf in tears. It was a tournament he should have won on a golf course that is made for him. He should have won the US Open in 2023 but somehow contrived to lose to Wyndham Clark.

In 2022 he finished second at The Masters, but that was a whole different vibe. He shot a glorious final round of 65 that ended with a holed bunker shot at the 72nd, but he was never really in contention to beat winner Scottie Scheffler, who ended the week three ahead of him.

Since winning the 2014 US PGA he has finished second at Augusta, twice second at the US Open, and tied second and third at The Open. He has had 11 top five finishes and 22 top-10 finishes in the majors. His quality is not in question but his temperament just might be.

I don’t care how strong he is mentally - and I have my doubts about that anyway - when he next gets into a winning position he is going to be thinking about those missed putts on the 16th and 18th. He had gone all year without missing a putt of three feet and under. In the space of three holes, when the heat was really on, he missed two tiddlers. Before that, he had holed an astonishing 496 out of 496.

It was no surprise that he left the course without speaking to the media. McIlroy has gone through some personal strife this year. When he arrived at Valhalla for the PGA Championship, news broke that he and his wife Erica were getting divorced. Unsurprisingly, he refused to speak about it.

By the time he got to Pinehurst, the couple had put their differences behind them. I don’t care who you are - that sort of emotional turmoil has got to have an impact.

Of course, everybody has an opinion about McIlroy’s inability to get over the line. Nobody should be surprised that social media was alight with trolls who accused him of bottling it.

McIlroy has shrugged off his past disappointments. He followed his Masters meltdown in 2011 by destroying a world-class field at the US Open a couple of months later. And you can be absolutely certain that he will have plenty of support when he tees it up at Royal Troon. But none of us can know just how he will fare should he get himself into yet another winning position.

The one thing that Pinehurst did prove is that winning majors is incredibly difficult to do.

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