A penny for the thoughts of Rory McIlroy as he wandered along New York’s High Line on the west side of Manhattan during the days that followed his crushing defeat at last month’s US Open.

As he took in the sights from the elevated converted former railroad, the world’s number two golfer reflected on the two short missed putts that contributed to three dropped shots in the closing four holes of a major he seemed destined to win.

Ending the frustration of a near decade wait to land one of the sport’s big four prizes was within his grasp that fateful day at Pinehurst. He was playing high quality golf, the sort that had eluded him all too frequently on the final day of recent major championships.

“I did things on that Sunday that I haven’t been able to do in the last couple years,” McIlroy said in his first public comments since the US Open. “I Took control of the golf tournament, holed putts when I needed to.”

Until, of course, he missed for par from inside three feet on the 16th green. He then missed a slightly longer and certainly more difficult one on the final hole to lose by a single shot to Bryson DeChambeau.

He departed Pinehurst with no comment and without the slightest regret at ignoring the media. “No offence; you guys were the least of my worries at that point,” he said.

The hours and days that followed were painful but cathartic. “I went home on Sunday night and actually spent Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday in Manhattan,” McIlroy revealed.

A handful of New Yorkers recognised him but with ear pods clamped he remained largely anonymous despite the welter of publicity his Pinehurst collapse had created. “It was nice to sort of blend in with the city a little bit,” he said.

“I walked around. I walked the High Line a couple of times. I made a few phone calls.

“I was sort of alone with my thoughts for a couple days, which was good. I had some good chats with people close to me, and you start to think about not just Sunday at Pinehurst but the whole week.”

Any athlete who suffers such a savagely dispiriting defeat will eventually seek to “take the positives” and McIlroy is no different. He knows The Open at Royal Troon is just around the corner – his last chance in 2024 to add a fifth major crown to his resume.

The 35-year-old from Northern Ireland insists it will not be a redemptive mission when he arrives on the Firth of Clyde next week. “It’s just another opportunity,” he said.

“I’m playing great golf and it’s another opportunity to see how I can hopefully handle it better than I handled it a few weeks ago.”

His worldwide legion of fans will hope he is correct, but it will surely be even harder to break his major hoodoo after squandering such a golden opportunity in North Carolina, where he led by two with five holes to play.

McIlroy admits the wait to hit his par putt on the 16th affected his bid to hole from inside three feet. He had been successful in his previous 496 attempts from such a distance.

“I had to wait awhile to hit that second putt,” he said. “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.

“But again, that’s on me to make sure that I’m in the right head space.”

He insists he hit “a decent putt” but misjudged the right of centre line. “Probably started it straight, maybe a touch left of centre, 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.”

McIlroy did not address the tee shot that bounced through the back of the green that led to bogey at the 15th or his decision to go with driver at the last where his tee shot found trouble down the left and ultimately led to such a tricky par putt.

But he did acknowledge that his playing routine altered as he headed into the sharp end of the tournament as he was taking every opportunity to gauge the progress of DeChambeau in the group behind.

“It was a great day until it wasn’t,” he said. “I think if anything, I’d say my pre-shot routine got a little bit long. I started to look at the target a few more times over the ball.

“And then being very aware of what maybe some others were doing on the golf course and not really staying in my own little world for the whole 18 holes.

“But really, apart from that, there’s not a lot I would do differently.”

Critics also questioned the apparently passive role of caddie Harry Diamond during that calamitous closing stretch of three bogeys in the last four holes. But McIlroy continues to stand by his bagman.

“Just because Harry is not as vocal or loud with his words as other caddies, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t say anything and that he doesn’t do anything,” the four time major champion said.

“These guys that criticise when things don’t go my way, they never say anything good when things do go my way.”


McIlroy was dismissive of critics including coach Hank Haney and former PGA Tour player Smylie Kaufman.

“Someone said to me once, if you would never take advice from these people, you would never take their criticisms, either,” he said.

“I certainly wouldn’t go to Hank Haney for advice. I love Smylie, but I think I know what I’m doing, and so does Harry.”

This week’s Genesis Scottish Open, where McIlroy is the defending champion, is the first opportunity to to once again prove that point. The following week at Royal Troon is a much greater challenge. (BBC)