Rory McIlroy, an old friend and a nightmare ending | Monday Finish

Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy on Wednesday of the U.S. Open.

Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy on Wednesday of the U.S. Open.

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Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where [sigh] we’re practicing our 2-foot putts. Let’s get to the news!

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The man in the arena.

Before this past week, Pinehurst’s most recent U.S. Open was in 2014, when Martin Kaymer won by eight shots. It felt good to be back, he said in a Tuesday press conference; he hadn’t returned in the decade since. He requested his exact same hotel room at the Carolina Inn — since renovated, he noted with satisfaction — and felt fond memories flooding in.

But when he got to the course there was one thing that had changed.

“To be honest, I was a little bit overwhelmed this morning when I played the first four or five holes,” Kaymer said. “I said to my caddie, ‘Was it that hard 10 years ago?’”

On Wednesday Kaymer went off in the afternoon with an intriguing practice-round partner: Rory McIlroy. The two likely don’t see much of each other these days. Kaymer lives in Germany and plays on LIV. McIlroy lives in Florida and plays the PGA Tour.

They had more in common a decade ago. They were Europeans in their 20s who’d been to the mountaintop. They were Ryder Cup teammates, they each reached World No. 1, they each won multiple majors and they each knew the invincible feeling of winning a major by eight. Life — and golf — looked easy.

The last 10 years have seen their respective golf careers diverge. Kaymer went chasing perfection and got lost in the process; his Pinehurst win was, remarkably, his last professional win anywhere and his jump to LIV has seen him drift outside the top 1000 in the world ranking. McIlroy has won dozens of times in the years since and has arguably become a more complete player than he was as a 25-year-old four-time major champ. But the one thing he’s missing is the one thing they still have in common: they both won major championships in 2014 and none since.

To Kaymer’s point: Was it that hard 10 years ago?

At week’s end I thought of Kaymer and McIlroy again. The German pro, now 39, had played well in an even-par opening round and was pleased to make the cut before fading on the weekend. Still, his T64 finish was actually his second-best result at a major in the last five years. Perhaps there was some small satisfaction in that.

On Wednesday I couldn’t help but wonder how Kaymer sees McIlroy now. If he’s envious. If he imagines what could have been had his swing and his game and his mind found a happier balance.

But on Sunday evening I couldn’t help but wonder the opposite, too. When McIlroy played heroic golf for 14 holes and tragic golf the rest of the way, when his two-footer slid by at 16 and his four-footer slid by at 18 and he watched Bryson DeChambeau pull off the up-and-down that he had not, when the weight of a decade-long drought came crashing down as he watched on a monitor in the scorer’s room, I wondered if McIlroy might feel jealous of Kaymer in T64, safely removed from the agony of such a painful close call.

It was a fleeting thought. A cowardly thought. Because of course McIlroy wants to be there. Facing those shots down the stretch to contend, to tie, to win — that’s the entire point. The only thing more painful than losing is not being there at all. The pain is more acute. But there’s some honor mixed in with the humiliation.

McIlroy was in the parking lot before DeChambeau had even signed his scorecard, so we didn’t hear from him post-round. Whether he should have faced the music to the media is a debate we can have another time. But in guessing his mindset we can borrow from his U.S. Open runner-up press conference a year ago: 

“When I do finally win this next major, it’s going to be really, really sweet,” he said. “I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another major championship.”

It’s 101 Sundays now. But launching yourself back in the arena, for glory or misery — that’s golf stuff I like.


Who won the week?

Bryson DeChambeau. Good grief did he win the week. He won his second U.S. Open title. He won the hearts and minds and eyeballs of millions of golf fans. He has a complex arc as a golfing character and public figure, but there’s no question that Sunday was the peak of both to date. He soaked it in. There’s more I’ll write about Bryson in the coming days but for now: good for him.

Lilia Vu won in her first start following a two-month hiatus from back surgery in Grand Rapids, Mich. at the Meijer LPGA Classic. The win came thanks to a birdie on the third hole of a playoff. Vu called it her “most meaningful” win because of the uncertainty she’d faced in her time away. She’s No. 2 in the world.

On the Korn Ferry Tour Taylor Dickson won the Wichita Open, his second victory of the season; get ready to see him on the PGA Tour next year.


But the next best thing.

There were a few guys who didn’t win the U.S. Open but for whom Sunday marked a large step in the right direction.

Tony Finau played his final 14 holes in five under par and was one make (from him) and one miss (from DeChambeau) away from a playoff.

Patrick Cantlay finished T3 alongside Finau; he hung tough with a final-round 70 playing alongside McIlroy and the finish tied his best career result in a major.

Matthieu Pavon battled back, too, playing his final six holes in two under par to post 71 from the final pairing and finish fifth.

And Xander Schauffele reminded us that nobody is a more consistent high finisher at majors; his Sunday 68 left him T7, his 10th consecutive top-20 major finish and his eighth career U.S. Open top-15 — in eight starts.

And in Michigan Lexi Thompson, who is playing her final full LPGA season, nearly won for the first time in five years, ultimately losing to Vu in a playoff. “I don’t think I’ve heard cheers like that unless it’s like, Solheim Cup,” she said.


A few weekend reads.

My colleague Alan Bastable followed Rory in the minutes after his heartbreak. (Read here)

My colleague Sean Zak wrote before Sunday’s finale about how Bryson had already won. (Read here)

My colleague James Colgan wrote this about the moments after Bryson’s win and what they meant. (Read here)

My colleague Josh Berhow wrote about finding more than one winner at Pinehurst. (Read here)

My colleague Nick Piastowski wrote this about Bryson’s caddie and how he might have changed everything. (Read here)

And my colleague Michael Bamberger took us through the day in a way only he can. (Read here)

From elsewhere on the internet, this from Shane Ryan on Rory McIlroy’s newest shade of heartbreak will have you captivated and gutted. (Read here)


This is usually one “dumb” graphic, but this one’s different.

This graphic may have actually jinxed Scheffler into his worst putting week since Rory McIlroy suggested he use a mallet and subsequently sent Scottie to the stratosphere.


From Rory McIlroy.

I’m happy to defend Rory McIlroy‘s final miss at No. 18; that was just a four-footer but it was a slippery four-footer that would have terrified me.

Still, when I saw a replay from a side angle it triggered a memory of something McIlroy had said ahead of the Masters:

“Sometimes I can let the putter rise up a little bit too much on the way through, and then I can catch the ball sort of more on the equator, rather than like more of a level,” he said. “Like, when I strike a good putt, it almost feels like the ball comes out of the top of the face instead of the middle of the face. So, yeah, focused a little bit on strike, a little bit on just that sort of transition.”

Watch the putt again and you’ll see the putter strike the equator. It looks low on the face. Did that make the difference? Sigh. We (and he) can only wonder.


What happens now?

There have been reports of an incoming agreement between the PGA Tour and the Saudi PIF. My sources say that there’s no announcement coming this Tuesday — nor anytime this week — but that progress continues behind the scenes.

There are two different issues to sort out here. The first is reaching consensus on a PIF investment in PGA Tour Enterprises. The second is around the future of the game and the coexistence of its fractured entity, which leads to one massive question that won’t go away: If the sides merge, how will LIV change?


Johnson Wagner.

All week on Live From, Paul McGinley referred to DeChambeau as “box office.” I feel the same way about Johnson Wagner, who somehow got a bunker lesson from DeChambeau in the dark — with incredible results.


Monday Finish HQ.

There’s a major in town! I’m away for the first couple days of the week but will get out for a bit of tournament coverage from the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which is touching down at Sahalee as we speak.

I’ll report back. See you back here next week — but only if you subscribe below!


Dylan Dethier welcomes your comments at

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.

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