Rory McIlroy doesn't regret his quick Pinehurst exit, details how he spent the days after U.S. Open in New York City

July 10, 2024

Andrew Redington

Rory McIlroy is in North Berwick this week to defend his Genesis Scottish Open title, but many in the golf world are still focusing on the trophy that slipped through his grasp.

That would be the U.S. Open, which McIlroy led until the closing hour, where he bogeyed three of his final four holes to finish one shot behind champion Bryson DeChambeau. After watching DeChambeau successfully convert a 50-yard up-and-down from a greenside bunker, the Ulsterman had a quick exit from the North Carolina property without speaking to the media. McIlroy pulled out of the Travelers Championship, a PGA Tour signature event, the following day, explaining a need for a short sabbatical before the sport ramped up for the final major of the season.

McIlroy is making his first public appearance since that Pinehurst heartbreak, and made his first comments about that final U.S. Open with the the media at the Renaissance Club on Wednesday, calling that Sunday “a great day until it wasn't.”

"I did things on that Sunday that I haven't been able to do in the last couple years,” McIlroy explained. “Took control of the golf tournament. Held putts when I needed to. Well, mostly when I needed to. Made birdies. You know, really got myself in there. And then, look, obviously unfortunately to miss those last two putts, or the putt on 16 and obviously the putt on 18.

“Yeah, it was a tough day. It was a tough few days after that, obviously. But I think as you get further away from it happening, you start to see the positives and you start to see all the good things that you did throughout the week.”

McIlroy said there were lessons to take away from Pinehurst, specifically over those final holes. He said he felt uncomfortable waiting for his second putt on the 16th, which he eventually missed. McIlroy also said he was of two minds on the final putt, not knowing if DeChambeau would be able to save par from his wayward drive at the 18th.

“Thinking back, yeah, maybe I was a little too aware of where Bryson was and what he was doing but it was the nature of the golf course and how the golf course flowed,” McIlroy admitted. “After the 14th tee, you're sort of looking at 13 green, and then I had to wait on my tee shot on 15 before he hit, or you know, to let him hit his second shot into 14. Just the way the course flowed, it just made me very aware of what he was doing at the same time. So it sort of got me out of my own little world a little bit.

“But no, I mean, 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 I'll hopefully put that to good use. It's something that's been a bit of a theme throughout my career. I've been able to take those tough moments and turn them into great things not very long after that.”

McIlroy said he decompressed from the U.S. Open by spending a few days in Manhattan, walking the city’s High Line to get away from the noise. He did say he was noticed by a few people, although with AirPods in, was mostly left alone.

“Sort of was alone with my thoughts for a couple days, which was good,” McIlroy said. “I had some good chats with people close to me, and as you start to think about not just Sunday at Pinehurst but the whole way throughout the weak, there was a couple of things that I noticed that I wanted to try to work on over the last few weeks coming into here, and obviously next week at Troon.

“They were hard but at the same time, as each day went by, it became easier to focus on the positives and then to think about the future instead of what had just happened.”

As for his abrupt departure—one that earned criticism from some corners of the game, McIlroy said he doesn’t have any regrets. “Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I could have said that was, not that ... I mean, it would have been good because you guys would have been able to write something about it or have a few quotes from me,” McIlroy said. “No offense; you guys were the least of my worries at that point.”

And while tough losses can have collateral damage, McIlroy was able to keep the pain in perspective.

“There's not a day goes by that I don't feel like I'm the luckiest person in the world to get up every morning and be healthy and follow my dream,” McIlroy said. “There's videos of me at seven years old saying I want to be the best player in the world and I want to win all the majors. To be able to try to make that little 7-year-old boy proud every day is something that I really don't take for granted. I'm very appreciative of the position that I'm in in life.”