Rónán MacNamara in Hoylake
The fact he declined to do any form of post round media duties and went straight to the practice putting green tells the whole story.
Rory McIlroy’s chances of winning a first major championship in nine years look over after another poor putting performance spoiled an imperious ball striking day at the 151st Open Championship.
From tee to green the four-time major winner was flawless on the front nine hitting approaches to ten feet, nine feet, four feet, eleven feet, 27 feet (two putt birdie), forty three feet, twenty-two feet, thirteen feet and seventeen feet. However, having been three-under after five holes and four-under for the championship he made the turn on the same score feeling shortchanged.
McIlroy missed his first green on the 10th but got up and down with a fizzing pitch to tap in range. As a squally shower came on the 11th hole, it washed away any momentum he might have been clinging onto as a poor bogey arrived on the 12th before a gilt-edged birdie opportunity from 8-feet on 15 went begging.
The 34-year-old, without a birdie on the par-3s this week hit another poor putt from 11-feet on 17 and after almost carving his drive on 18 out of bounds he trudged to his ball with his head down looking defeated and almost resigned to his fate of ten years of hurt in major championships.
A ten footer drained of any confidence never threatened a closing birdie and McIlroy took off his cap, sighed and looked at the ground walking off the green, currently nine shots back from the runaway Brian Harman after a disappointing 69 and three-under total.
The 2014 Open champion lost 1.99 strokes on the greens in his third round, leaving him 66th in strokes gained putting out of the 76 who made the cut after missing four putts from inside ten feet and six putts from 11-25 feet.
At the 2022 Open Championship in St Andrews last year where McIlroy was ambushed on the back nine by Cameron Smith he carded sixteen pars and just two birdies as he bizarrely finished third in a two-horse race.
Many counted this as bad luck and they would be right, but what it’s done has opened up fresh major championship wounds and created a new layer of scar tissue.
It’s very easy to defend him and say ‘oh well he did nothing wrong’ there’s doing nothing wrong and not doing enough and unfortunately for McIlroy he didn’t do enough at the Old Course last year and he didn’t do enough at this year’s US Open Championship.
Upon first inspection his comment after losing out to Wyndham Clark where he said it was like St Andrews all over again as a throwaway comment to a member of his backroom team went over my head. However, after more weekend putting woes at major championships what happened twelve months ago still clearly haunts him.
It’s no secret that there is scar tissue for McIlroy when he shows up at Augusta National after his Masters mare in the final round of the 2011 contest but what happened at the Old Course is worryingly still fresh in his mind.
McIlroy hit 15 of 18 greens in the final round at LA Country Club and lead the field in that category over the four days, hitting 82% but far too many two putts left him licking his wounds after another near miss to Wyndham Clark.
The reoccurring problem is on the greens. He lost 2.1 strokes to the field in putting for the final round ranking 57th of the 65 players who made the cut, but his putting woes began in round three, losing over a stroke to the field and ranking 49th of 65.
At the end of days play in Hoylake McIlroy was ranked 58th in the field for putts held inside ten feet.
Groundhog Day on the greens leaves McIlroy staring into a decade long wait for that elusive fifth major.