What Went Wrong For Rory McIlroy At The US Open?

The Northern Irishman had arguably his closest call yet since his last Major win in August 2014

Rory McIlroy looks on at the US Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy is leaving another Major championship empty handed after an agonising close call at Los Angeles Country Club.

The Northern Irishman posted a nine-under total to force Wyndham Clark to par the 72nd to win, with McIlroy ultimately coming up one stroke shy in LA.

It's his third top-three finish at a Major in 14 months and his 19th top 10 in a Major since he last won one at Valhalla in August 2014.

So what went wrong on Sunday for McIlroy?

It had shades of St Andrews about it, where he closed with a two-under 70 at the 150th Open to lose out by two strokes to Cameron Smith. The Aussie shot one of the all-time Open Championship rounds with an eight-under 64 to rip the Claret Jug out of McIlroy's hands.

Rory played great golf that week but just didn't get the putts to drop on Sunday. Was he too conservative? Did he try to 'not lose' instead of go out and win? Those were the questions.

Rory McIlroy looking disappointed

McIlroy missed out at the 150th Open last year after holding the 54-hole lead

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sunday at LACC was similar. He had 36 putts in his final round and certainly looked to be playing with that same mentally of trying not to lose instead of going out there to win.

But it was slightly different. The course was firm and bogeys were there to be made, and his safe strategy looked to be the right play. He didn't have a charging Cameron Smith to deal with, he just needed to par his way in on the tough LACC and hope that it would be good enough.

He made two big errors that ultimately cost him that elusive fifth Major, though.

He missed from 4ft for birdie on the par 5 8th after finding the edge of the putting green in two. His first putt from just off of the surface came up shy before he pulled his birdie attempt left.

The fatal error came on 14, the third and final par 5 of the round. His wedge from 125 yards got caught up in the wind and came up short, and after a free drop for an embedded ball he was unable to get it up-and-down to save his par.

Rory talks to official during a drop

McIlroy's missed the green with his wedge shot into the par 5 14th and made bogey

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wyndham Clark in the group behind then hit the shot of the tournament, finding the green in two with a fairway wood and making a birdie for a two-shot swing and a lead of three.

Clark ultimately dropped two shots coming in but sealed the title by a single stroke - and it will be a tough one to take for McIlroy once again.

Unlike St Andrews last year where Smith charged past him with a 64, he wasn't really beaten this week. Sure, Wyndham Clark played the tournament of his life, but McIlroy would have won if a couple of moments just went his way.

He more beat himself despite a well played final round. He lost out by one after playing the three par 5s in level par on Sunday. That's what it came down to.

His missed four-footer on the 8th and his bogey on the 14th were the ones that stopped him winning his second US Open title. If he birdied the 8th and parred the 14th he would be a five-time Major champion.

"There was a couple of things that I probably would have done differently, but all in all, I played a solid round of golf," McIlroy said.

"That one wedge shot on 14, missed birdie putt on 8, really apart from that, I did everything else the way I wanted to.

"Yeah, fine, fine margins at this level and at this tournament especially, but I fought to the very end. I obviously never give up. And I'm getting closer.

"The more I keep putting myself in these positions, sooner or later it's going to happen for me. Just got to regroup and get focused for Hoylake in a few weeks' time."

He'll have certainly proved to himself that he is ready to win Majors again over these past 14 months but the reality is that he still hasn't won one for nearly nine years and this was probably his best chance yet along with St Andrews last year.

McIlroy will be the hot favorite at Royal Liverpool next month, scene of his 2014 Open triumph, but who's to say that there won't be an in-form Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Smith or Brooks Koepka to get past.

This was a golden opportunity and one he'll be desperate to bounce back from as soon as possible.

Rory McIlroy plays an iron shot into the 18th at the 2023 US Open

He led the field in greens in regulation by some way

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He was superb this week at the US Open. He hit six more greens in regulation than anyone else, and nine more than Wyndham Clark, and drove the ball as good as we've ever seen. 

He would have been a worthy champion with a brilliant US Open strategy of hitting green after green. Maybe he just wasn't quite aggressive enough or maybe he was unlucky that the putts just didn't quite drop when he needed them to.

They say your first Major is hard and the second one is even harder, but for McIlroy it's the fifth one that is proving to be the toughest. 

"When I do finally win this next Major, it's going to be really, really sweet. I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another Major championship," he said.

He's right, it is going to be very, very sweet when he wins another Major. What does he need for that to happen?

If he brings the same game to Royal Liverpool and gets the right breaks at the right time, there's no doubting Major number five could be coming very soon.

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV