The Rusacks Hotel in St. Andrews is located right next to the 18th Fairway, with a gorgeous view of one of the most famous finishing holes in golf. The McIlroy family stayed there all week, and every morning, Rory McIlroy would look out his window and see the flashy yellow scoreboard atop the 18th green.
The banners in front of the grandstands read that everything is headed for this. To someone who hasn’t won a Major in eight years, it seemed like a literal sign that this was his week, Sunday would be his day.
It was not. McIlroy, who led the Open Championship by four strokes on Sunday, lost to two as Cameron Smith and teammate Cameron Young did what McIlroy couldn’t – creating long strips at crucial moments.
It was a “duel” in the same way that a locomotive approaching railroad tracks is a “race”. McIlroy never knew his putter; He finished 55th in the number of puts this week, while Smith finished second. With that kind of discrepancy, it’s only a matter of time before the pursuer overtakes the leader.
Shortly before Smith started estimating how many beers fit in a claret jug—his impression: two—McIlroy was doing what he almost always does, let’s face the music, even. That another hopeless chief settled on his shoulders.
He kept his approach as usual – “In the end, it is not life or death. I’ll have other chances to win the Open Championship and other chances to win the Majors”—but it hasn’t been burning like anything since his fall on the 10th at Augusta National in 2011.
McIlroy is famous for the stoic he adopts when things are going well. He’ll get off the tee and down the fairway like he owns the joints, shoulders back, chest out. It’s as aggressive a stance as golf will allow, and for McIlroy, it all too often leads to a goal-killing mistake—an overcooked drive, a wayward approach, a skidding putt that doesn’t end anywhere near the pin. it happens.
So it’s no small irony, that the day McIlroy played some of the smartest golf he’s ever played, he needed more strides. A four-stroke lead should be enough to stop any contest… as long as the contest does not drop five birdies in a row.
Playing controlled golf, McIlroy said, “Worked until I needed an answer to what Cam was doing there. Coming down to 14, I knew Cam was at 19 at the time.” Had a birdie to go and I was 18, so I knew I needed to respond. I didn’t get the shots or putts to do that.”
Smith will do the bus from the 10th hole. No. Miss. And McIlroy, for his part, was the tiniest bit, just the tiniest fraction wide. While McIlroy made his way around the course, and while his playing partner Hovland was falling at pace, Smith turned from curiosity to annoyance to existential threat. As he headed back toward St Andrews, McIlroy could hear the cheers ahead of him, watching Smith make his way deeper and deeper into the red numbers.
“I felt like I didn’t do too much wrong today, but I didn’t do too right,” McIlroy said after the round. “It’s one of those days where I played a really controlled round of golf. I did exactly what I needed to, except capitalizing on easy holes – around the turn, 9, 12, 14. If I did well there Had I made a birdie from position, it might have been a different story.
And so he stood in the 18th fairway, 27 yards from the pin, almost directly in front of the Rusacks Hotel. He needed a miracle that wouldn’t come, said an eagle that – like many others on Sunday – just wouldn’t fall.
“It was either hole or nothing, really. I wasn’t really trying to go for T2 with Cameron Young at the time,” he said. “As I crossed the hole, I was like Was, well, that was… I gave it a good shot. it was not meant to be. ,
Earlier that morning, he got up to look at the raised scoreboard, and he saw his name at the top. He wondered how he was just 18 holes away from keeping it up for a year.
“At the start of the day, it was over the top, but early tomorrow, it won’t,” McIlroy said Sunday evening. “You have to let yourself dream. You have to let yourself think about it and what it will be like.”
Maybe someday he’ll find out again.
From Jay Busbee at [email protected] or on Twitter @jaybusbee. contact on,