In the minutes after Rory McIlroy’s chances at the Open, he opened up about how he dreamed of winning that title, how he looked out his hotel room window every morning and visualized his name above all else. others come on Sunday.
His honesty was endearing. It made you feel even more for him as he faces an eighth year without a major title.
That’s 17 top 10s and nine top 5s since he last won a major. On some level, these stats show how far he’s come. On the other hand, they only underline the heartache the 33-year-old must be feeling for not winning any of these things at a genuine age.
“I’m only human,” he said when asked if he had imagined what it would be like to win here. “I’m not a robot. Of course, you think about it and imagine it.
“My hotel room is right in front of the big yellow sign of 18. And every time I go out, I try to imagine McIlroy as the first name in that ranking.
“At the start of the day, it was on top, but at the start of tomorrow, it won’t be anymore. You have to let yourself dream. You have to let yourself think about that and what it would be like.” be like.”
No one should shed tears for McIlroy. He has a life that most could only imagine in Neverland, but there were an awful lot of discouraged fans, an awful lot of people who wanted him.
“It’ll be fine,” he said later. “It’s not life or death. I will have other chances to win the Open Championship and other chances to win major tournaments. This is one that I feel like let slip, but there will be other opportunities. I just couldn’t find the shots.”
Calm gives way to panic as birdies don’t come
Being there with him was hectic and painful at the same time. He started with a composure that was a hallmark of his game and got him into that high position in the first place.
Like his first three laps, he didn’t go in pursuit. He just got into position and waited for things to happen. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, things happened. Sunday, nothing helps.
The first real omens of doom came at the start of his back nine when birdie putts refused to fall, when Cam Smith’s roars never ceased and when the police had to intervene to check the massive ranks of fans, one more desperate than the other to grab it and carry it to the winning line.
Upon his arrival on the 10th, he was greeted with cries of “Ole! Ole!’. Innocent minutes, those. A time when McIlroy led by two and always had the Claret Jug in sight. “Rory! Rory!’ They shouted, confident that the next Open champion was walking among them.
At the green at 12, things started to turn. McIlroy missed the kind of doable putt that Smith putt away with metronomic ease.
One of the issues was that McIlroy didn’t hit that close, second was that nothing fell, third was the electrifying mullet man run. Five birdies in a row from the 10th. One charge to beat all charges.
The cavalry running with McIlroy went wild. They spilled out behind the ropes and no marshal could stop them from hitting the fairways. They came in waves. The police were called.
Going down 13 things got weird. Uniformed officers galloped around the square trying to chase the galleries away. “Get off the course! Get off the course now or risk being arrested!”
It could have gotten nasty but eventually order was restored and the fans retreated. From a safe distance, their view was the same – Rory hitting the greens and Rory missing putts that would have galvanized his turn and kept him away from the remarkable Aussie playing the trick of his life.
McIlroy was off the tee on the 14th when it was learned that Smith had passed him in the standings – 19 games under 18 under. The mood around the Northern Irishman changed at this time. From loud support to something less vigorous. From the celebration of ‘Ole! Ole!’ to the almost pleading tone of “Let’s go, Rory!”
The 14th is a par-five and a place to party. The fourth easiest hole on the course in the final round. Thirty-six players birdied, including Smith and playing partner Cameron Young. Six players the eagle. McIlroy was only able to do par. He let himself be too much. The story of his day.
“I haven’t done much wrong, but I haven’t done much right”
The tension around him at that moment was unmistakable. He says he didn’t feel it, but if he had looked left or right he would have seen fans fidgeting, biting their nails, shouting his name but losing belief that it was going to work for him. him.
He needed a spark but everything was flat. Patience had served him well for three days but playing percentages didn’t work when there was a man playing like God in front of him. Golf percentage is not enough when your rival birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie en route to a back nine of 30.
Smith watched the penalty on the 17th but saved himself with a terrific putt. McIlroy missed a feasible birdie chance on the same hole soon after. That was pretty much it. He needed the last eagle for a play-off. How lucky had the eagle in making a birdie been such an ordeal all day?
Smith shot 64, Young shot 65, McIlroy shot 70. Of the top 18 in the standings at the end of the day, only Viktor Hovland did worse than McIlroy. The last two on the golf course were the worst performers among the elite. It will be a difficult reality for McIlroy to manage.
A repetition of his Friday 68 would have taken him to the barrage. Another 66 like the ones he posted on Thursday and Saturday would have ended an absurd eight-year run without a major title. For someone as talented as McIlroy, it’s infuriating and confusing.
He praised Smith for his genius and how worthy he was of a winner – the new champion dropped some ominous hints later that LIV might beckon him – but McIlroy never really fired a shot, never had any momentum.
He only had two birdies all day. Thursday it had seven, Friday it had six, Saturday it had five plus an eagle.
“I felt like I didn’t do much wrong, but I didn’t do much right either,” he said. “I did what I needed to, other than capitalize on the easier holes around the bend. I will miss a few putts that slipped – good putts, but they just didn’t fall.”
McIlroy said he would continue to believe that this horrible race without a major would end soon, that he would continue to dream that his name would end up on one of those signs he could see in his mind from his bedroom window. of hotel.
At this time, and for a while to come, however, there will be some nightmares. His next crack is the one he still needs to complete the Grand Slam, Augusta, next April. An eternity. Golf gave him so much but, damn it, it hurt him sometimes. So close, so far. The wait continues. Agony again.
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