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US Open collapse not my toughest loss – McIlroy

Rory McIlroy says he will “learn a lot” from his late collapse at the US Open but insists it was not the toughest defeat of his career.

Four-time major winner McIlroy led last month’s championship by two shots with five holes to play but bogeys on three of his last four holes allowed Bryson DeChambeau to snatch a dramatic victory.

He immediately left Pinehurst without speaking to the media – which he says he does not regret – and has not played since.

“It’s been a while since I’ve won a major. It hurt but I felt worse after some other losses,” said McIlroy, who makes his return as the defending champion at this week’s Scottish Open.

“I felt worse after Augusta in 2011 and I felt worse after St Andrews [in 2022]. It was up there with the tough losses but not the toughest.”

Two years ago, McIlroy jointly led the 150th Open Championship at the Old Course by four shots with Viktor Hovland going into the final round and although he carded a two-under 70, Australia’s Cameron Smith shot a 64 to take the title.

He also held a four-shot lead at the 2011 Masters, but collapsed to an eight-over-par 80 in the final round.

McIlroy ‘too aware’ of DeChambeau

McIlroy, who also finished runner-up at the 2023 US Open, overhauled a three-shot deficit to DeChambeau to lead by two, but he dropped shots on the 15th, 16th and 18th holes.

“The short putt on 16 is one that I’ll probably rue most because it was a pretty simple putt,” admitted McIlroy, who last won a major in 2014.

“The putt on 18 was pretty difficult. There’s not a lot that I would change about what I did on Sunday for the first 14 holes. That’s the best I’ve played in that position in a long, long time.

Playing in the group in front of DeChambeau, McIlroy also admitted to feeling uncomfortable during the latter stages of his round because he was “too aware” of what the American was doing behind him.

“The way the course flowed made me 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.

“The few days after it were pretty tough at times but I’ve done a good job of thinking about it rationally and constructively, and taking what I need from it and trying to learn from it.”

McIlroy defends caddie Diamond

Harry Diamond consoles McIlroy at the US Open

Harry Diamond has been Rory McIlroy’s caddie since 2017

McIlroy, who spent “time alone with my thoughts” in New York as he mulled over his latest major near-miss, has cut a relaxed figure at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, where he beat Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre to the title last year.

The world number two appeared in good form during the Wednesday pro-am, where he stopped to take photographs and sign autographs in between the second and third holes.

But he had a stern rebuttal to a question about criticism of his caddie Harry Diamond at the US Open. Player-turned-analyst Smylie Kaufman and Tiger Woods’ former coach Hank Haney have been among those questioning Diamond’s credentials.

“These guys that criticise when things don’t go my way, they never say anything good when things do go my way,” said McIlroy, who will play with MacIntyre and Hovland when the Scottish Open starts on Thursday.

“Where were they when I won Dubai earlier year, or Quail Hollow, or the two FedEx Cups that I’ve won with Harry or the two Ryder Cups or whatever? They are never there to say Harry did such a great job when I win, but they are always there to criticise when we don’t win.

“They are not there. They are not the ones hitting the shots and making the decisions. Someone said to me once, if you would never take advice from these people, you would never take their criticisms either.

“[I] certainly wouldn’t go to Hank Haney for advice. I love Smylie, but I think I know what I’m doing, and so does Harry.”  –