Tour Confidential: Did Bryson win the U.S. Open? Or did Rory lose it?

bryson dechambeau hoists u.s. open trophy, rory mcilroy holds his hands on his head

Bryson DeChambeau's win was heartbreak for Rory McIlroy.

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Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us at @golf_com. This week, we discuss Bryson DeChambeau’s second U.S. Open title, Rory McIlroy’s latest heartbreak, Pinehurst No. 2 as a host and more.

1. In one of the most thrilling major finishes we’ve seen in years, Bryson DeChambeau held off Rory McIlroy to win the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 and claim the second major title of his career. But it wasn’t easy. McIlroy, who trailed by three to start the day, briefly led by two with five holes to play but bogeyed three of his last four to lose by one. Two of those bogeys (including the final one on the 72nd hole) were short par misses. So, did DeChambeau (71) win it? Or did McIlroy (69) lose it?

Jack Hirsh, assistant editor (@JR_HIRSHey): I’ll take the easy road here and say a little bit of both, but it was more McIlroy losing it, so I guess I fall into that camp. Don’t get me wrong, DeChambeau’s up and down to clinch it was the stuff of legend. People will be hitting that shot out of that bunker as soon as No. 2 reopens to public play. But he never should have had the chance to win with par. McIlroy’s putt on 18 was not from a great spot, above the hole and sliding hard, but he never looked like he finished his backstroke. What was truly inexcusable was the putt on 16. Two-feet-six-inches. Complete loss of focus.

Jessica Marksbury, senior editor (@jess_marksbury): As the three-shot leader heading into the final round, I think DeChambeau won it. It was a battle, and given the pressure from McIlroy, DeChambeau could have caved. But he ultimately came up clutch when it mattered most. I think his par on 8 was enormously pivotal. After hitting two shots into no-man’s-land,  DeChambeau managed a huge up-and-down to keep his momentum. Then of course, there was his 18th hole and the root obstruction, followed by an up-and-down that will live forever. McIlroy unfortunately squandered his chances, and DeChambeau won because he didn’t let any of his misses destroy his.

Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): Everyone will remember Rory’s two short misses, but that doesn’t take away from the stellar play Bryson had over the first three days. He was the only guy to shoot in the 60s over the first three days, and it built up a nice cushion heading into Sunday. That cushion allowed him to win Sunday without his A game, aided by Rory’s misfortune.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): What matters more is how DeChambeau and McIlroy feel about it. I can pretty much guarantee that Bryson thinks he won it, and Rory thinks he lost it. I wouldn’t argue with either of them on those points.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): I feel energized for Bryson. But man, I still feel ill for Rory. Sick to my stomach. That charge — and THAT finish? Rory put himself in position to lose the tournament, and that’s what he did. But Bryson went and seized it, too.

2. What does it say about DeChambeau’s game that he was able to win on this type of setup, which was very different from his first U.S. Open win at Winged Foot? What most impressed you about his play this week?

Hirsh: His par putting was absurd. He actually lost strokes on the greens Sunday and had 31 putts on the round, but it seemed like every chance he had to drop a stroke, with the exception of the short miss on 15, he poured them in. He coulda pulled away had he gotten his eagle putt on 13 or birdie putt on 17 to the hole, but it was his par savers that truly won him this Open.

Marksbury: You could argue that DeChambeau got lots of lucky breaks when he hit shots into bad places, but his recoveries were superb. Add to that a very tidy short game — and a great week of putting — and you have an ideal arsenal to take on Pinehurst.

Melton: His scrambling ability impressed me — especially on Sunday. He obviously wasn’t hitting the ball his best during the final round, but he leaned on his scrambling to keep him in it. Everyone will remember the save in 18, but his up-and-down on No. 8 was arguably more impressive. That was right around the time Rory started his charge, and Bryson saved par from an impossible spot. Without that, the entire dynamic of the back nine is different and we’re likely talking about Rory’s return to the winner’s circle. 

Sens: Agreed with all of the above. Part of that is clutch gene, which DeChambeau clearly has. That up-and-down on the 8th was about as tough as they come, and at what felt like a pivotal moment, as McIlroy was starting to reel off what would be four birdies in five holes. And then of course that bunker shot on 18. Whatever you think of Bryson, you can’t deny that was pure grace under pressure.

Dethier: His attitude. He hung in there. He’s older, wiser, happier, more mature. His caddie Greg Bodine deserves some credit for that, too. Together they were a tough out.

3. Even before DeChambeau won on Sunday, he seemed to win over the fans all week long, which hadn’t always been the case for them or him. What changed for fans? And for Bryson?

Hirsh: He’s either getting really good advice on how to build his brand, or he is just genuinely a really good person and is letting it show. He’s interacting with fans during competition in ways we’ve never seen any pro do in this era of guarded access. It’s truly a throwback. People talk about giving the fans what they want, while Bryson is actually doing it with his mid-round autographs and huge fist-pumps.

Melton: Bryson is one of the few golfers who seems to have come into their own after going to LIV. He’s largely out of the mainstream spotlight playing on the PGA Tour’s rival tour, and that relative anonymity has allowed him to avoid scrutiny from the mainstream press. Only being in the brightest spotlight four times a year seems to have done wonders for his brand.

bryson dechambeau points to the sky after winning the 2024 u.s. open
Bryson DeChambeau delivers touching gesture after U.S. Open win
By: Zephyr Melton

Marksbury: Agree with you, Z! Something has definitely changed in Bryson over the last couple of years. He seems comfortable, content, secure. It appears that LIV’s team environment has been a good thing for him. I love the fact that he’s leaning in to being an entertainer, and the fans clearly do too. Plus, he’s really, really good it.

Sens: I suspect his stint in long drive helped bring out a change in him as well, as he started to embrace the performance aspect of his job. It is, after all, entertainment. It helps to be a great talent. It also helps to be smart enough to recognize a pretty simple truth: the culture of athlete worship among fans — and among large numbers of the media covering those same sports — is so powerful that it really doesn’t take a lot to have the public eating out your hands. Sure, there are plenty of haters out there. But most fans and reporters are dying to love an athlete who gives them a few minutes of time and flashes some basic elements of humanity.

Dethier: Bryson has seized control of his image; he presents the version of himself that he wants the world to see. In that way escaping the PGA Tour and spending spare time on YouTube has helped him in the public eye. But there’s something simpler here, too: Winning takes care of everything. It makes you happier, more endearing, more heroic. It’s easy to be drawn to a winner.

4. McIlroy, whose long major drought (37 starts) is well-known, let yet another one slip away and exited the property without speaking to the media. Was this his most heartbreaking close-call of all?

Hirsh: At St. Andrews in 2022, he got lapped by Cam Smith. Yes, he could have simply made a few putts on Sunday, but Cam Smith went out and took that one. This time? All he had to do was make a couple of putts inside four feet and we’re talking about a completely different story tonight.

Marksbury: McIlroy’s closing holes were excruciating to watch from home — I can’t imagine how it felt for him. When the tournament is in your hands, and you miss a short putt to let it slip away not once but twice, that has to be golf’s most agonizing punishment.

Melton: Gotta be this one. Standing on the 15th tee he was in the solo lead at eight under. Three bogeys over the final four holes — including two misses inside five feet — and he didn’t even force a playoff at six under. Brutal.

Sens: If you’re going strictly by the numbers, I’d say the 2011 Masters, where he lost a four shot lead on Sunday. But numbers alone don’t tell the full story. You need context. And this one — given how many close calls he has had leading into it, and how painfully he let this slip—has to be the most agonizing.

Dethier: This was the worst. The absolute worst. He’ll move on. He’ll contend at the Open next month. I know that in my head. But what was so brutal about watching today in real time was knowing that this will be part of McIlroy’s major story forever.

5. What do you think happened late with McIlroy? Nerves? Bad reads? Pinehurst’s diabolical greens? Where did he go wrong?

Hirsh: Unfortunately, we won’t know what he was thinking in the moment, for at least some time because he didn’t speak to the media. But he had to start thinking about breaking his drought. Peter Kostis explained during his U.S. Open preview show on Kostis and McCord: Off their Rockers, that the first sign of nerves is bad decision making, and the second is poor execution. McIlroy made poor decisions by playing too much club on the 15th and 17th holes, hitting it over the green each time. Then he had poor execution on the putts on 16 and 18.

Marksbury: That’s some astute rationale there, Jack, and sounds legit to me. I think it had to be nerves. Prior to missing that three-footer, golf stats guru Justin Ray tweeted that Rory was 496/496 on three-footers this season. What was the difference with this particular three-footer? The U.S. Open was on the line. 

Rory McIlroy suffered a heartbreaking loss at the U.S. Open on Sunday.
Rory McIlroy just lost the U.S. Open in heartbreaking, agonizing fashion
By: Dylan Dethier

Melton: Who the hell knows. Rory made a few long putts (that he seemingly never makes on Sunday afternoons) early on, and over the last few holes the hot streak ended. Perhaps just a regression to the mean? All I know is it was painful to watch.

Sens: There’s no such thing as a gimme at Pinehurst No. 2, so the greens are relevant. But McIlroy had been putting it beautifully. He looked genuinely shocked by the first one, almost like he was jolted from a brief spell of complacency. The second stroke looked quite nervy, like he was a victim of the moment.

Dethier: That putt at No. 18 was legitimately scary — it was a slippery four-footer from above the hole. The putt at 16 is the one that’s tougher to get past. That was the difference. (And finding the fairway at 18 wouldn’t have hurt, either.)

6. This was the first time the U.S. Open returned to Pinehurst No. 2 since it was named a USGA anchor site and will continue to host several U.S. Opens in the future. DeChambeau finished six under, and eight players total were under par. What did you think of Pinehurst No. 2 as a U.S. Open test?

Hirsh: Outstanding. Six under is the butter zone for winning U.S. Opens these days and while I don’t think the golf course was shown too well on TV, with the exception of the effective green-size graphics, I think it played phenomenally and provided an extremely demanding, yet fair test to the game’s best players. It’s always great to see the pros asked to be extraordinarily precise shots as opposed to attacking holes through the air and not having to worry about where a ball bounces.

Marksbury: Spot on. U.S. Opens are fun when birdies and disasters are equally possible, and Pinehurst No. 2 gave us plenty of that. This Open was really fun to watch down the stretch.

Melton: It freaking rules. A proper test that produced a great leaderboard and a deserving champion. Can’t wait until they bring the men and the women here in 2029 for a back-to-back. 

Sens: Loved it. There should be no letup in a U.S. Open. This course doesn’t allow for any. And there’s nothing goofy about it. Maybe I missed it, but did anyone call it unfair? 

Dethier: I could have used just a touch more carnage. Not a single score in the 80s on Sunday?! But in all seriousness the USGA did exactly what they wanted: presented a tough test without becoming the story. Mission accomplished.

7. What’s your most memorable non-McIlroy/DeChambeau takeaway from U.S. Open week? 

Hirsh: That we had an absolutely outstanding finish without Scottie Scheffler. Feels like the first time in a long while. Nothing against Scottie, but it only makes what he’s doing look better when the other players in his era get in on the winning.

Marksbury: Ludvig Aberg continues to be the real deal. A couple of bad holes derailed his chances, but in only his third major ever, he’s super impressive. You have to believe he’ll win one of these sooner rather than later.

Melton: Unfortunately it might be that this was the last U.S. Open for Tiger. After missing the cut, he said it “may or may not be” his last start in this championship. Time will tell.

Sens: McIlroy was involved but he wasn’t with Bryson. On Friday, when he, Scheffler and Schauffele all hit their approaches to pretty much the same spot on the par-5 5th. The three best players in the world, missing to the wrong side of the easiest hole on the course, and coming away with a combined score of five-over par. It was one of those rare, relatable moments when the game seemed as hard for them as it is for the rest of us pretty much all of the time.

Dethier: Xander Schauffele is a major championship machine. His T7 was pretty quiet but it was a terrific way to back up last month’s PGA win; he’s now finished top 20 in a ridiculous 10 majors in a row. And he’s still never finished worse than T14 in eight career U.S. Opens. He’s built for these

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