Another disappointment for Rory McIlroy at the British Open

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland. In the depths of the last nine of the British Open on Sunday, around the time Cameron SmithA bird began to seep through the gallery, the audience began to seem unsure.

They came to Old Field to revel in all kinds of excitement with Rory McIlroy, and for a while they reveled in rousing talk and singing, screeching and roaring, sometimes even when he missed.

Then they became a chorus of shell-shocked cheerleaders, composing a slow, mournful soundtrack to one of golf’s most harrowing runs.

Next to the tee road pitpar-4 on the 17th, the woman gritted her teeth before McIlroy swung.

– Come on, Rory! the man yelled as the ball gained height.

You can do it, Rory! another shouted.

“Bird, eagle!” recommended by a third man.

If only.

It wasn’t that McIlroy, who finished eighth or better at all four majors in 2022, played a round full of bad luck – his Sunday scorecard showed two under par 70 and no ghosts. But his exit was marked by one missed opportunity after another, hitting “where I couldn’t just trust myself to start him in the hole” and a suspended ability to keep up.

On Saturday, when he masterfully gathered 66 people to share of leadership in the final round, he sometimes seemed more like a sorcerer than a gambler, with a wiggling sand eagle on No. 10 and five birds. On Sunday, he only caught birdies twice, his stick is not the same weapon as it was the day before.

“I felt like I didn’t do a lot of bad things today, but I didn’t do a lot of right things either,” McIlroy said after finishing third in the Open behind Smith and Cameron Young. “This is just one of those days where I was really in control of the game of golf. I did what I thought I needed to do, just minus using the easier holes around the turn, 9, 12, 14. If I had made a good position birdie there, it would probably have been a different story.”

After all, with everything else in this tournament, remaining the same, he would have won.

Among the 156 people at the 150th Open, there were few figures that rocked St. Louis. Andrews crowds just like McIlroy, the son of Northern Ireland, who won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014. McIlroy, who missed the 2015 tournament in St. Louis. Andrews, due to injury, performed well at the Old Course in the past, finishing third at the 2010 Open Championship.

However, this time he arrived mired in especially elitist poverty, finishing in the top 10 – but not winning any – in 16 of the 29 major tournaments he has entered since winning Royal Liverpool. He felt like he was playing his best game of golf in a while, and he thought maybe he could hit one of the most tempting and challenging golf courses.

So, at 2:50 pm local time on Sunday, when he and Viktor Hovland started Game 1. 42 days, a working guess for a lot of people around St. Petersburg. Andrews was that one of them would raise burgundy jug with fresh engraving. The thought of them being the only men in the top tiers of the tournament to score 70 points or less on Sunday seemed far away, although the crowd seemed to treat Hovland more as a side figure than a contender.

But the arithmetic drove McIlroy straight to 70 after nine holes.

After that, he did not get worse. He didn’t get any better either, the Old Field skittles becoming a sort of ritual to evade his punches.

Of course, Hovland’s troubles, which reached 74 on Sunday, could not go unnoticed by McIlroy. However, he could only understand what was threatening the rising pair up front, where Young, playing alongside Smith, was also on the march, making seven shots to his eventual finish in second place. Smith was even more brilliant, hitting eight in the final round, six of them on the back nine.

“I was just doing my thing,” McIlroy said. “It worked well until I needed to react to what Cam was doing there. Going down to 14, I knew Cam had jumped to 19 at that point and I was on 18, so I knew I had to call. I just couldn’t find any punches or putts to do it.”

But according to McIlroy, it still ranks among his best major tournament shows in recent years, even as he admitted to classifying this year’s Open as “a performance that I feel I missed out on” .

“I’ve been close and keep knocking on the door,” said McIlroy, whose next tournament is expected to take place in Memphis in mid-August. “I can’t get too upset because the game is there. It’s just a matter of patience.”

Despite its drought, there is perhaps no professional golfer these days who has so many unfulfilled promises. Gary Player, who won three Opens, recently called McIlroy “The most talented golfer in the world today” and Smith spent part of his post-round press conference hailing McIlroy as “probably the most consistent player here.”

On Sunday, however, it was consistency that proved to be the problem.

And those crowds?

“They were a lot louder at the beginning than they were at the end,” Hovland said, “that’s for sure.”