SI:AM | Rory McIlroy’s Speedy Getaway Was As Disappointing As His Loss

Fans deserved to hear from him after his late collapse at Pinehurst. 
McIlroy's second-place finish on Sunday marked the fourth time he’s finished as the runner-up at a major since his 2014 PGA Championship win, his last major.
McIlroy's second-place finish on Sunday marked the fourth time he’s finished as the runner-up at a major since his 2014 PGA Championship win, his last major. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I also missed two short par putts on the final three holes of my round of golf yesterday. (But they were at least longer than Rory’s.)

In today’s SI:AM: 

🏌️‍♂️ Bryson wins at Pinehurst
😢 Heartbreak for Rory
🏊‍♀️ A 46-year-old swimming star

Another close call for Rory

While U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau was finishing up his press conference at Pinehurst, runner-up Rory McIlroy was already in the air aboard his private jet, making a getaway so speedy a bank robber would be jealous. 

McIlroy’s opportunity to snap his long major championship drought was the primary story line at this weekend’s tournament. It has been 10 years since he last won a major (the 2014 PGA Championship), but it isn’t as though McIlroy has forgotten how to play winning golf during that time. He’s won 17 times on the PGA Tour since then, just not when the spotlight is brightest. And there had been plenty of close calls. His second-place finish on Sunday marked the fourth time he’d finished as the runner-up at a major since his ’14 win. 

Sunday was the most brutal near miss of all. McIlroy had started the day three shots behind DeChambeau, but, after an impressive stretch of four birdies in five holes, held a one-shot lead through 13 holes. Then the meltdown began. McIlroy bogeyed three of his final four holes and lost the tournament by one stroke

A stretch of bogies like that isn’t inherently disappointing. The course this week was a vintage U.S. Open challenge, with only three holes playing to an average score below par. But the course didn’t beat McIlroy down the stretch. He beat himself. He inexplicably missed not one but two short par putts to surrender his lead, including one on the final hole. 

After choking away his lead, McIlroy retreated to the scoring tent and watched helplessly as DeChambeau converted a scrambling par to win the tournament. Fifteen minutes later, his car was peeling out of the parking lot. Thirty minutes after that, his plane was in the air. 

McIlroy’s swift departure was as stunning as his epic collapse. He didn’t wait a few minutes to congratulate DeChambeau. He didn’t speak to the press. He just threw his clubs in the trunk of his car and sped off. 

McIlroy is a fan favorite in part because he’s typically open with the media. He’s been at the forefront of discussions about the future of the game during the ongoing drama of the LIV Golf split. Regardless of whether he wins another major, Sunday’s heartbreaking loss will be remembered as a critical moment in McIlroy’s career, and by speeding off to the airport McIlroy denied his many fans the opportunity to get his perspective on the most significant round of golf he’s played in a decade. 

Contrast that with DeChambeau, who was another fan favorite at Pinehurst primarily because of how he engages with fans. He plays for LIV, which hardly anyone watches, but he’s cultivated a large fan base by captivating fans on social media. After his win, he stayed to sign autographs until long after the sun had gone down. 

The 2024 U.S. Open will be remembered for many things. For DeChambeau, it’ll be the heroic bunker shot on the final hole to set up his winning par putt. For McIlroy, it’ll mostly be the two missed putts. But even if he does eventually snap his winless streak at majors, it’ll be impossible to talk about his performance at this tournament without also mentioning how he fled the course. 

Because McIlroy chose not to speak with the media, the final word on his heartbreaking round came from DeChambeau, who spoke very highly of the man he had just defeated. 

“Rory is one of the best to ever play. Being able to fight against a great like that is pretty special,” DeChambeau said. “For him to miss that putt, I’d never wish it on anybody. It just happened to play out that way.

“He’ll win multiple more major championships. There’s no doubt. I think that fire in him is going to continue to grow. I have nothing but respect for how he plays the game of golf because, to be honest, when he was climbing up the leaderboard, he was two ahead, I was like, Uh-oh, uh-oh. But luckily things went my way today.”

Bryson DeChambeau hugs the US Open trophy after winning at Pinehurst.
DeChambeau put together an all-time par on the 18th hole to secure his second U.S. Open win. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

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Dan Gartland

DAN GARTLAND

Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).