‘I’m not perfect’: Analyst opens up after roasted Rory McIlroy read

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy hits his par putt on his 72nd hole at the U.S. Open.

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Smylie Kaufman says you can aim left-center.

But now there are some catches. 

“You just got to hammer it,” he said. 

“And it needs to hit the back of the hole, go up and then go down.”

Yes, Kaufman’s good. Smylie is smiling a couple weeks after the U.S. Open’s final round, where Rory McIlroy’s putt for par on Pinehurst’s 18th green was 3 feet, 9 inches away and above the hole — and Kaufman, an NBC on-course analyst, gave his audience the following read:

“Not outside the hole. It’s a left-center putt, but you can make it if you start it right in the middle, too.” 

Only McIlroy aimed well left of left-center — and missed to the right. He bogeyed, and he finished a stroke behind winner Bryson DeChambeau

And Kaufman heard it from folks. Even Jon Rahm had thoughts. The 2021 U.S. champ had withdrawn from this year’s tournament earlier in the week and watched from home. Mostly, he said, his viewing is done without sound. 

But there was some volume on McIlroy’s putt. 

“I thought from the times I had it on and I could hear, I thought [the broadcast] was OK,” Rahm said a few days later. “One of the things that absolutely burned me, and I think it was Smylie who said it, he severely underplayed how difficult Rory’s putt on 18 was. When he said it’s a left-center putt, if you hit that putt left-center and miss the hole, you’re off the green because of how much slope there is. You could see Rory aiming at least a cup left from three feet. They severely underplayed how difficult that putt was. Severely.

“I think that can happen a few times where unless you’ve been there on the golf course and you’re playing it or you’ve played it, it’s hard to truly explain how difficult the golf course can be. A lot of times they only have those five seconds to say something quickly, so I also don’t blame them. But besides that, I thought it was good.”

Jon Rahm speaks to the media at the U.S. Open, a day before he withdrew.
Jon Rahm says this part of U.S. Open broadcast ‘absolutely burned’ him
By: Josh Berhow

So why did Kaufman say what he said?

Notably, Rahm gave a reason. Appearing on this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar podcast, Kaufman called it a learning experience. He said he wished he would’ve been more vague in his read. 

But Subpar co-host Colt Knost, himself a CBS on-course analyst, said the looks are quick. Misreads can be made. 

“If he would have made it,” Kaufman said on the podcast, “it wouldn’t have mattered. But since he missed and then it happened to break off the planet and he pushed it, it’s like, ahhhh, man, I wished I would have just said, ah, it depends on the speed, you know.” 

Asked Knost: “Did social media let you have it at all?”

Said Kaufman: “Oh, buddy. Listen, I mean, I’m not perfect. I did my best to what I thought the read was. I probably would have changed — I wouldn’t have ever given anything definite. I just would have said there’s some right in this, there’s some down in this. Just to be a little bit more vague. That’s a learning experience. Let me chalk that up in the category of somebody who’s not really been in that situation on 18. I just was in a good spot and felt like I had the read.” 

Said Knost: “We do the same thing out there, and it’s just amazing that these people think like, we stalk it from both sides and spend two minutes reading it. It’s like, you’re literally walking by, and it’s just like, hey, quick peek. You don’t have a greensbook or anything. It’s like, this is what I got, and sometimes you’re wrong, but the amount of people on social media be like, ‘You are the worst. You said that putt was going to break left, it broke right.’ I’m like, sorry, bro, I was 30 yards away.” 

Said Kaufman: “At least it went right.” 

Said Subpar co-host Drew Stoltz: “Just say left to right, downhill, it’s just a fast one.” 

Said Knost: “When you said you could hit this straight and it still might go in and then it broke, I was like, oh, Smylie’s going to get killed for this one.” 

Said Kaufman: “You got to hammer it, Rory.” 

Said Stoltz: “… Yeah, dude, I just walked by, I didn’t even really get a look at it, I just knew it was right to left. I think that’s the key — you should just have to be, left to right, it’s moving and it’s really fast.” 

Said Kaufman: “Definitely a learning experience.” 

For more from Kaufman, you can watch his Subpar episode in its entirety below. 

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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