Rory McIlroy just lost the U.S. Open in heartbreaking, agonizing fashion

Rory McIlroy suffered a heartbreaking loss at the U.S. Open on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy suffered a heartbreaking loss at the U.S. Open on Sunday.


Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open on Sunday with an incredible, heroic, memorable up-and-down from the front bunker on No. 18 at Pinehurst No. 2. He made par to win in the most dramatic possible fashion.

But Rory McIlroy lost it in the most painful possible fashion, too.

Some 90 minutes before the miserable end, McIlroy birdied the par-4 13th, his fourth birdie in a five-hole stretch. With the birdie he reached 8 under par and opened up a two-shot lead over DeChambeau.

Nearly everything that followed was heartbreak.

At the par-3 15th, McIlroy’s approach shot hit the middle of the green but bounded over the back and settled up against a tuft of Pinehurst’s wiregrass. He had to improvise from there and chopped one up to 30 feet and settle for a two-putt bogey.

It got worse. At the par-4 16th McIlroy played his approach to 25 feet and sent that birdie putt trickling two-and-a-half feet past the hole. Stats guru Justin Ray reported that this year, McIlroy has been 496 for 496 from inside three feet — but he hit this putt too hard, too far left or both. It caught the edge and spun away. Bogey again.

McIlroy executed a nifty up-and-down from the greenside bunker at the par-3 17th and arrived at the 18th tee tied for the lead. He sent driver down the left side, drew a tough lie, chopped one just short of the green and played a chip shot to leave a slippery left-to-righter from three feet, nine inches.

This time he didn’t play enough break; his stroke looked true but the putt moved right, caught the right edge of the hole and drifted by.

It would have been a devastating loss for anyone at any tournament, but for McIlroy there are layers of added devastation.

When he won the PGA Championship in 2014, a 25-year-old McIlroy had four majors and the sky seemed like the limit. He’s 35 now and still stuck on four. McIlroy has done nearly everything since then; he’s reached World No. 1, he’s won PGA Tour events of every shape and size, he’s led Europe to Ryder Cup victories, he’s played his way into leads at majors and he’s contended to the end. The U.S. Open alone has been a story of near-misses; he finished T9 in 2019 and got steadily closer each year since: T8 in 2020, then T7, then T5. Last year he finished runner up, just one shot off Wyndham Clark’s winning total. But entering Sunday’s final round he still hadn’t captured elusive No. 5.

He still hasn’t.

McIlroy watched from the scoring room as DeChambeau finished off the improbable up-and-down from the front bunker. He had his hands on his hips, hat slightly askew. He watched the winning putt drop and then he turned for the exits, caddie Harry Diamond by his side. He declined media and headed to the parking lot; by the time DeChambeau had signed his card McIlroy had effectively left the property.

For most of the day, this go ’round felt different for McIlroy. Recent major near-misses at St. Andrews and Los Angeles Country Club have featured tentative iron play and a series of birdie putts sliding by the hole. But McIlroy started his day by pouring in a birdie putt at No. 1. And despite a tough-break bogey at No. 5 he began a run with a 15-footer at No. 9, a 27-footer at No. 10, a 22-footer at No. 12 and a five-footer at No. 13. That was the putt that gave him a two-shot lead.

There’s only one problem with a two-shot lead: It’s that much more painful when it slips away.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

Watch, play, win. Chirp Golf is your home for the best of real money Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and Free-To-Play games.

Watch, play, win

Chirp Golf is your home for the best of real money Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and Free-To-Play games. Featuring simple to play. easy to learn, and fun games. Chirp Golf has something for every golf fan.

Scan to Download:

Google Play Apple Store