Rory McIlroy immediately set his sights on The Open and insisted he’s “closer than I have been in a while” to ending his major drought after another near miss in the US Open at Brookline.
he Holywood star played brilliantly throughout the week at The Country Club but he paid a high price for not having a go-to tee shot on the tight holes and a closing 69 left him tied fifth, four shots behind Ryder Cup team mate Matt Fitzpatrick, who shot a 68 to edge out Will Zalatoris and world No 1 Scottie Scheffler to make his first PGA Tour win a major.
“Yeah, it wasn’t that easy out there,” said McIlroy, who man just three pars in a rollercoaster front nine and left himself too much to do coming down the stretch.. “Obviously, there was a few good scores, but I needed to shoot a 65 or a 66 to get the job done today, and I just wasn’t quite on it enough to do that.
“I still feel like I played well and shot a solid round of golf, but just not quite good enough to contend.”
McIlroy admitted he’s felt uncomfortable with his 3-wood all year and while he’s finished second, eighth and tied fifth in the first three majors of the year, he knows it’s something he must sort out before The Open at St Andrews.
“Yeah, maybe something I need to try to work on going into the Open, trying to get a 3-wood that I’m 100 percent comfortable with,” he said. “But as you said, overall I did a lot of really good things this week — putted well, scrambled well, hit a lot of good iron shots.
“So I just need to keep doing that, keep doing my thing, and I’ll have another opportunity in a few weeks time to try to get another one.”
As for his round, he was left to rue a front nine where he followed his birdies with bogeys to turn for home five shots off the pace.
“A bit of a roller coaster on the front nine, bogeys and birdies,” he said. “Got off to a great start. Sort of feel like there was a couple of holes out there this week that were my nemesis, the 3rd (which he played in four-over) being one of them.
“The game’s there. Another top five in a major, I guess doesn’t really mean anything. Yeah, the game’s there. The game’s there. I’ve got one more start next week in (the Travelers Championship) in Hartford before I go to the Open Championship.
“I’ll get two weeks of good rest before The Open and play some links golf and prepare and look forward to that. Again, my game’s in good shape. I’ve got one more chance this year to try to get that major.”
McIlroy was excellent mentally all week and that can only be a positive as he returns to the Home of Golf, where he has an impressive stroke average.
“I felt like I did a good job of that this week,” he said of the highs and lows of a US Open in which he has finished tied ninth, tied eighth, tied seventh and tied fifth over the past four years.
“I feel like I’ve done a good job of that at this tournament the last few years. I feel like this is my fourth top ten in a row coming off the back of three missed cuts in this event. So it’s definitely been better.
“It’s still not quite close enough. There was a few holes there today where I made the birdie and then did the reverse once back with the bogey at the next. To win golf tournaments, you just can’t do that.
“But it’s there. It’s close. I just have to stay patient. As I said, I’ve got one more opportunity this year to try to get a major, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Admitting he was disappointed, he said: “It will take a while probably (to get over). I’ll look back at this as another missed opportunity just as Southern Hills was, but missed opportunities are better than not contending at all. So that is a positive.
I have to stay patient at this point because if I just keep putting myself in position, sooner or later it’s going to be my day and I’m going to get one.”
Asked if he felt it was win or bust in majors as the eighth anniversary if his most recent major win approaches, he said: “It’s not win or bust. It’s not as if where I finished today is the same as not playing on the weekend. I guess when I look back, will I remember the fifth place I had at Brookline? Probably not.
“It’s funny, I had a flashback over the putt on 15. It was to finish T-4 with Hideki, and I held a putt on the last green at Augusta in 2015 to finish fourth. For some reason I had a flashback to that, which is weird. Obviously, seven years ago.
Yeah, there’s positives to take from it.
“I played well enough to give myself a chance to win. I didn’t get the job done, but I’m closer than I have been in a while, which is good.”