McIlroy: ‘I’m only human’ but Old Course heartache is ‘not life or death’

Rory McIlroy admits he envisioned his name atop the famous old yellow scoreboard bordering the first fairway at St Andrews. ‘Well played Rory, see you at Royal Livepool 2023.’ Only problem is, it was well played Cameron Smith. Very, very well played indeed.

For the fourth time this year, McIlroy was left to contemplate a top eight in a major, outgunned 64-70 by Smith who became the 150th Open Champion but just the second, after Long John Daly in 1995, to do so sporting a mullet.

It’s now eight years and counting since McIlroy claimed the last of his thus far four major titles at Royal Liverpool (a good omen for 2023 perhaps) but this loss, given it was at the Home of Golf and the 150th edition, will hurt.

The 33-year-old couldn’t camouflage that, as hard as he tried.

“I’ll be okay. It’s not — at the end of the day, it’s not life or death,” McIlroy said.

“I’ll have other chances to win the Open Championship and other chances to win majors. It’s one that I feel like I let slip away, but there will be other opportunities.”

While Smith was putting the lights out in the group ahead, covering the Old Course’s inward nine in 30 strokes, McIlroy was left wondering why his TaylorMade mallet wasn’t even remotely as hot as the Aussie’s black blade. With deeper reflection, he might also question why he can’t conjure a wedge closer under the pump too.

“It’s just one of those days where I played a really controlled round of golf. I did what I felt like I needed to just apart from capitalising on the easier holes — around the turn, 9, 12, 14. If I had made the birdies there from good positions, it probably would have been a different story.

“But, look, I got beaten by a better player this week. 20-under par for four rounds of golf around here is really, really impressive playing, especially to go out and shoot 64 today to get it done.

“Yeah, I’ll rue a few missed sort of putts that slid by. But it’s been a good week overall. I can’t be too despondent because of how this year’s went and this year’s going. I’m playing some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. So it’s just a matter of keep knocking on the door, and eventually one will open.”

But surely you allowed yourself a moment to think about winning this one? Surely it hurts?

“Of course. I’m only human. I’m not a robot. Of course, you think about it, and you envision it, and you want to envision it. I was literally, my hotel room is directly opposite the big yellow board on 18 there right of the 1st. And every time I go out, I’m trying to envision McIlroy at the top name on that leaderboard and how did that feel?

“At the start of the day, it was at the top, but at the start of tomorrow, it won’t be. Of course you have to let yourself — you’ve got to let yourself dream. You’ve got to let yourself think about it and what it would be like, but once I was on the golf course, it was just task at hand and trying to play the best golf I possibly could.”

On Sunday, it wasn’t quite good enough, solo third to go with second at the Masters, 8th at the PGA and T5 at the U.S. Open.

We guess you’ll keep dreaming of seeing your name on that yellow leaderboard on the final day, perhaps at Royal Liverpool next July?

“Yeah, I will.”

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