OAKMONT, Pa. -- Still dressed in his requisite Nike ensemble of white pants and gray shirt, Rory McIlroy disgustedly packed a small brown, leather duffel Saturday afternoon in the rear of Oakmont Country Club’s locker room.
The bag slung over his shoulder, the 27-year-old Northern Irishman walked down the hall, briefly stopping to sign a pin flag, and then headed down the stairs and out the door, past a throng of reporters and into the player parking lot, where he hopped into his Lexus courtesy car and promptly exited stage left.
McIlroy declined to speak to reporters. He didn’t need to. His annoyed stride and expression said enough.
For the first time since the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield, the former world No. 1 missed the cut in a major championship. He shot one-over 71 on Saturday, making double bogey on his final hole, the par-4 ninth, to end the week at eight over and two strokes outside the cut.
It wasn’t just that the four-time major champion and 2011 U.S. Open winner has the rest of the weekend off, it was how he got there.
Following an opening 77 in which he had hit just five fairways, eight greens and said he didn’t have control of his swing, McIlroy seemed to have figured things out by Saturday, making four birdies over his first seven holes to bring himself to the fringe of contention, within seven strokes of the lead with still a lot of golf to be played.
He was driving it well, hitting his irons close and making putts. The lengthy range session he had under the watchful eye of his coach Michael Bannon the day before seemed to have paid off.
But it all fell apart beginning on the par-4 third. After hitting his approach shot to just inside 15 feet McIlroy inexplicably four-putted.
Or maybe not so inexplicably. It was the fifth time in his career that he has had a four-putt in a major championship.
More mental mistakes followed.
At the par-5 fourth, McIlroy hit a poor chip that left him 13 feet from the hole. He missed the putt and settled for par. One hole later, he needed a chip-in to save par.
Another bogey at the sixth, where he failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the par 3, put him on the cut line.
Then came the mess at the ninth, where he drove it into a fairway bunker, hit the face to leave it in the sand, pitched out to the fairway and eventually two-putted for double.
“It was unfortunate to see him finish the way he did,” playing partner Rickie Fowler, who also missed the cut, said of McIlroy. “I know, obviously, he was kind of trying to fight through some stuff, not swinging as well as he would like to Thursday. I know he got some work in [Friday]. Got off to a great start, and, yeah, it's never fun when it's yourself struggling, seeing your friends struggle. So, yeah, it would have been a little more fun if we could have both snuck in there for the weekend.”
Though he won last month in Ireland, for the second straight major McIlroy couldn’t seem to get out of his own way.
In April, he entered the weekend at the Masters within a stroke of the lead but followed with a sloppy 77 before a Sunday 71 to tie for 10th.
Afterward, he talked about needing to avoid mental mistakes. But for the second straight major and on a course that punishes such errors, he didn’t and paid for it.