Rory McIlroy says he wandered around New York in attempt to forget his 'awkward' US Open finish

NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — In the days following his heartbreaking finish at the US Open, Rory McIlroy donned his headphones and wandered the streets of Manhattan and the High Line in an attempt to blend in and process what had happened in Pinehurst.

McIlroy, 35, had missed two short par putts on the final three holes to surrender the 69-hole lead to eventual champion Bryson DeChambeau. The Northern Irishman quickly pulled away without speaking to the media and withdrew from the following week's tournament. He spoke about the difficult finish for the first time at his press conference on Wednesday for the Scottish Open.

“It was a great day until it wasn't,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy said he felt largely like the version of himself he wanted to see at major championships that Sunday. He made tough putts. He took control of the tournament, starting the 15th hole with a two-stroke lead over DeChambeau. He then bogeyed the tough 15th hole and left himself a four-foot putt behind him on the 16th.

“I remember feeling a little bit uneasy as I waited for my second putt on the 16th hole,” McIlroy said.

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He also acknowledged that the nature of Pinehurst's routing meant he was always aware of where DeChambeau's ball was one group behind him. “It took me out of my own little world a little bit,” he said. Then he had to wait longer for the par putt, as his partner Patrick Cantlay played his shot. “And he can take his time,” McIlroy joked with a smile. He missed the putt to bogey.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)


McIlroy's last major win was almost 10 years ago (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“You're standing there, it's hard not to think about the future or notice before Bryson's ball is on the fairway or things like that,” he said. “But again, it's up to me to make sure I'm in the right frame of mind. I hit a decent putt on 16, the green took it … I probably started it straight, maybe a little left of center, and the green took it and it hit the left edge. (It) wasn't a terrible putt, but I was definitely a little uncomfortable before I hit it.”

On 18, McIlroy made a tricky, quick three-foot par putt that — in retrospect — would have sent the U.S. Open to a playoff. Once again, McIlroy accepted that he was letting DeChambeau's play influence his decision-making. Because he knew DeChambau's ball was far left of the fairway, there was still a chance the American could make bogey and McIlroy could two-putt to still make a playoff. McIlroy said he had to worry about not making a second putt too difficult.

“I knew I had to hit him really softly,” he added. “If the back didn't matter, I would have hit him harder.”

McIlroy missed the putt and DeChambeau rallied from a tough bunker shot to par and win the tournament. The next day, McIlroy withdrew from the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, but since he had planned to stop in Manhattan beforehand, he kept that trip and used it as a way to refuel.

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He walked around the city, calling people he trusted. Otherwise, he was alone with his thoughts and found things he wanted to work on. Within a few days, his thoughts shifted to the future.

“When I look back on that day, just like I look back on some of my toughest moments in my career, I'll learn a lot from it and hopefully I can use that,” McIlroy said. “It's something that's been a bit of a theme throughout my career. I've been able to turn those tough moments into great things not long after.”

Finally, McIlroy was asked if he regretted not speaking to the media after the round. He didn’t. “No offense,” McIlroy said with a smile, “you guys were the last thing on my mind at that moment.”

(Top photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

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