McIlroy says he used New York trip to reset after U.S. Open


NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — In the days following his heartbreaking finish at the U.S. Open, Rory McIlroy put his headphones on and wandered the streets of Manhattan and the High Line in an attempt to blend in and come to terms with what happened at Pinehurst.

McIlroy, 35, had just missed two short par putts on the final three holes to give away the 69-hole lead to eventual champion Bryson DeChambeau. The Northern Irishman quickly drove off without speaking to the media and withdrew from the next week’s tournament, making his Wednesday news conference before the Scottish Open his first time talking about the difficult finish.

“It was a great day until it wasn’t,” McIlroy said.

For much of that Sunday, McIlroy said he felt like the version of himself he had been looking to return to at major championships. He made tough putts. He took control of the tournament, entering the 15th hole with a two-shot lead over DeChambeau. Then, he bogeyed the difficult 15th hole and left himself a four-foot putt on 16.

“I can vividly remember starting to feel a little uncomfortable waiting for my second putt on 16,” McIlroy said.

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He also acknowledged the nature of Pinehurst’s routing meant he was always aware of where DeChambeau’s ball was one group behind him. “It sort of got me out of my own little world a little bit,” he said. Then, he had to wait longer for the par putt as playing partner Patrick Cantlay played his shot. “And he can take his time,” McIlroy joked with a smile. He missed the putt to bogey.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)


McIlroy’s last major came almost 10 years ago (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“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 headspace. I hit a decent putt on 16, the green grabbed it… I probably started it straight, maybe a touch left of center, and the green grabbed it and it caught the left edge. (It) wasn’t a terrible putt but I definitely felt a little bit of uneasiness before I hit it.”

On 18, McIlroy had a tricky, quick-breaking three-foot par putt that — in hindsight — would have sent the U.S. Open to a playoff. Again, McIlroy accepted he let DeChambeau’s play affect his decision-making. As he knew DeChambau’s ball was far left of the fairway, there remained a chance the American could bogey and McIlroy could two-putt to still make a playoff. McIlroy said he had to worry about not leaving too difficult of a second putt.

“I knew I had to hit it really soft,” he added. “If the one back didn’t matter, I would have hit it firmer.”

McIlroy missed the putt, and DeChambeau got up and down from a difficult bunker shot to par and take the tournament. The next day, McIlroy withdrew from the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, but because he had plans to stop in Manhattan beforehand he kept that trip and used it as a way to refuel.

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He walked around the city and called people he trusts. Other than that, he was alone with his thoughts and found things he wanted to work on going forward. Within a few days, he shifted his thoughts to the future.

“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 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.”

Lastly, McIlroy was asked if he regrets not speaking to the media after the round. He did not. “No offense,” McIlroy said with a smile, “you guys were the last of my worries at that point.”

(Top photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)



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