Rory McIlroy insisted he has been humbled by his recent run of form after a three-putt bogey on his final hole ended his US Open defence and condemned him to a fourth missed cut from his last five starts.
Searching for late birdies in a desperate attempt to make the weekend, the defending champion boldly charged a 20 foot putt at the par three eighth two and a half feet past the hole and missed the return, enventually holing a six footer to add a 73 to his opening 77 and finish two shots outside the cut mark on 10 over par.
It was a sad end to his fourth US Open for the world No 2, bringing to a conclusion a whirlwind 12 month reign that saw him reach world No 1 in March and then slip from the throne by producing hispoorest run of form since his rookie season in 2008.
A runaway, eight-shot winner at Congressional last year, McIlroy was always on the back foot after a lacklustre 77 on Thursday and must now re-group for his next start in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush and the season’s remaining majors.
“Obviously disappointed,” McIlroy said of his week. “It wasn’t the way I wanted to play. I left myself with a lot of work to do after yesterday’s round, and to be honest overall I don’t feel like I played that badly for the last two days.
“It’s just such a demanding golf course and just punishes the slight tee shot that’s off line or that’s maybe not the right distance or whatever and that’s how I feel. I feel like you really have to be so precise out there and if you’re not, you’re going to get punished.”
After confessing at Wentworth that he had taken his eye of the ball since winning the Honda Classic in March to become Irish golf’s first world No 1, McIlroy has played poorly by his high standards and shown that he must add some new dimensions to his game on courses that require more guile and graft than power and swashbuckling showmanship.
“Yeah, it has been,” he said, when asked if the past six weeks had been humbling for him. “It just realised that you’ve just got to keep working hard. It doesn’t come easy to you all the time.
“It hasn’t been the greatest run over the last sort of six weeks or whatever it is; but as I said, I still see enough good stuff in the rounds that it does give me hope that it’s not very far away.”
McIlroy committed US Open suicide when he decided to attack the course with his driver, hitting just over half the fairways and greens.
He made just three birdies in two days and must now come up with a viable game plan when taking on hard and fast tracks in future.
He said: “I think the thing is that we’re just not used to playing this sort of golf course week in, week out. You have to, of course you have to adapt and you have to adjust.
“We’re not used to having to land balls before the edge of the greens to let them run on. And it’s just something that you just have to adjust to in this tournament, and I wasn’t able to do that very well this week….
“It’s tough. The thing about US Open you got to hit fairways and when you hit it in the fairway you got to hit it on the green. So it’s something that I needed to do a little more often in this tournament.”
He dismissed the notion that he had changed his strategy coming home, insisting: “Not at all. I knew I needed a few birdies coming in today, so I just tried to attack as much as I could and go for pins. And I had a good look for birdie on six and didn’t take it.
“And then I a look at eagle on seven [he missed a slick 20 footer f] and made birdie there and had a good birdie look at eight and once I missed that, I thought that if I holed that putt eight-over might have a chance to make the cut.
“But once that was missed, I knew that I probably wouldn’t make it through the weekend. But as I said, I felt like I had some good shots out there and I don’t think the score that’s on the board really reflects how I played.
It was also a short week for US Open debutant Peter Lawrie as he added a 77 to his opening 74 to miss the cut by three on 11 over.
Four over starting the day, the Dubliner dropped eight shots on the tough front nine and while he birdied the 10th, he couldn’t capitalise on the chances he created coming home.
Believing he has the game to compete in majors, Lawrie said: “I played poorly at the start of my round, to be fair. I missed too many fairways, and it’s very tough to score out of the rough round here.
“But I battled back well and gave myself plenty of chances on the way in, on the 14th 15th, 17th and 18th – I just couldn’t take any of them. I brought my game here, but it just didn’t happen. But c’est la vie, hopefully I’ll be back more often.
“The course wasn’t as fearsome as it could’ve been, because there wasn’t any wind. It’s more that I drove the ball really poorly. I missed most of the fairways on the front nine, but I’ve enjoyed the experience all the same.
“It’s a bit of an eye-opener to see how tough a golf course can be set up. There’s not much enjoyment in missing the cut and going home early, but I can still take some positives from the week.
“If I can tidy up my game just a little, it bodes well for the rest of the season. It’s given me a taste for more experiences like this. I feel like my game’s good enough to compete in Majors, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be out here more often.
“I struck the ball well enough for the last few holes, so there’s nothing wrong with my golf game.”