Rory McIlroy Quickly Exits U.S. Open After Another Painful Major Loss

After he squandered a prime chance to end his 10-year major drought, Rory McIlroy didn't stick around to talk about it.
Rory McIlroy reacts on the 18th green during the final round of the U.S. Open.
Rory McIlroy reacts on the 18th green during the final round of the U.S. Open. / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

PINEHURST, N.C. — After winning the 2024 U.S. Open with a clutch par putt, Bryson DeChambeau threw his golf ball into the cheering 18th-hole crowd.

Runner-up Rory McIlroy probably wanted to throw up. Again.

Seeking again to break a 10-year major-championship drought which has dogged a once-limitless career, McIlroy fell short in the most painful of fashions: by a single shot after of two short missed putts in the closing holes.

Where it belongs in his personal house of horrors or the pantheon of great golf collapses will be discussed for a while, but the amount of his hurt was revealed minutes after his round. He marched silently to his Lexus courtesy car, loaded two golf bags in the trunk, dropped a clothes bag in the back, then jumped in the driver's seat and departed with his caddie, agent and swing coach in tow.

It was a stunning departure without addressing the media, United States Golf Association officials or anyone else.

“I’ve never seen a player that close to the top leave so quickly without talking to anybody,” one USGA media official said. “At least take 10 minutes and compose yourself.”

A 3 foot, 9 inch miss for par on 18 was the final blow in a death march of back-nine miscues.

A birdie on the par-4 13th hole which briefly gave him a two-shot lead (DeChambeau birdied behind him moments later) and had the crowds chanting “Rory, Rory” as he headed to the 14th tee box wasn’t enough to hold off another golf disaster. It was his last birdie.

Even a 3-foot miss on the par-3 15th hole by DeChambeau didn't turn the tide in the Northern Irishman's favor, as McIlroy missed a putt of 3 feet, 8 inches himself on 16th, a par putt struck too hard.

No matter the fact that McIlroy came into Sunday’s final round 496-for-496 on putts of 3 feet and in, he was undone like he had been so many times over the last decade.

He now has back-to-back solo seconds in the U.S. Open, along with top-five finishes in every other major.

“We know that Rory has been chasing a major for many years and when you want something so bad, it’s often tougher to get,” said French golfer Matthieu Pavon, who finished solo fifth and had plenty of empathy for his fellow European.

“The more we want something, the harder it is to get and maybe he felt a little bit of pressure which got him.”

“It’s a tough game we play and it doesn’t matter how high you are like Rory, it’s natural to feel pressure on the final day when it all comes down to the back nine,” added Englishman Aaron Rai. “That is the test of the game we play and Rory will come out the better for this. He always has before.”

At age 35 and still in the prime of his career, as evidenced by multiple wins this year, McIlroy should have plenty more chances. The first comes next month at the British Open at Royal Troon, where he finished T5 in 2016.

But after that, it’s the 2025 Masters, the one major he still needs to complete the career grand slam.

His fellow players say Sunday’s latest disaster will do little to get in his way for the future.

“Is he finished? Are you kidding me? He’s got lot of more chances. He’s a generational world-class golfer,” said Tony Finau who matched his best major championship finish with a tie for third. “Rory is going to get it done and be able to quiet all the noise.”

But the only noise in the Pinehurst parking lot at 6:42 p.m. ET on a warm Southern evening was a Lexus's tires crunching on the gravel as McIlroy exited the stage, slowing down only for a security guard to clear a crosswalk so he could leave what may have been the most painful loss of them all.


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Art Stricklin

ART STRICKLIN

Art Stricklin is an award-winning golf writer based in Dallas and the president of the Texas Golf Writers Association. He spent more than a decade working for Texas newspapers. Stricklin is the author of 10 books, including, “Thanks for the Memories,” on the history of Northwood Club in Dallas, and “Links, Lore & Legends: The Story of Texas Golf.” He has become one of Texas’ foremost experts on golf history and travel, having witnessed a countless number of professional and amateur golf tournaments in the state. His work has been published in regional, national and international titles, including Sports Illustrated, Connoisseur Golf, Golf Magazine, Texas Monthly, Global Golf Post, D Magazine and Texas Golfer Magazine. Email: astrick@flash.net; Twitter: @artstricklin