Rory McIlroy’s ‘annus horribilis’ got a little more horrible last night when he admitted that the US Open got the better of him as he threw a club and buckled another in a fit of anger and frustration en route to a closing 76 at murderous Merion.
Having lost his world No 1 crown to Tiger Woods and suffered a first round defeat to Shane Lowry at the Accenture Match Play before storming off the course after just 26 and a half holes at the Honda Classic, the 24-year old gave the world a display of petulance that will have done little to improve his already tarnished image as golf’s golden boy.
Struggling with his game since he moved from Titleist to Nike Golf in a multi-million dollar deal in January and believed to be on the brink of dumping management company Horizon Sports just 18 months into a five-year contract, it promises to be a long, difficult summer for the two-time major winner from Holywood.
Having already thrown a club at his bag in frustration at the fifth where he made a double bogey having being forced to play left handed from a fairway bunker, McIlroy’s anger boiled over at the 11th as he racked up a quadruple bogey eight.
After finding the creek that runs down the left side fairway off the tee, he dropped on the adjacent 12th fairway, carved his third shot into the water right of a flag cut just four yards over the water and leadned heavily on his nine-iron.
Pulling the club out of the ground, McIlroy could see that he had bent it totally out of shape, putting it out of commission for the rest of the round.
He eventually three-putted for a quadruple bogey eight, dropped another shot at the 14th and eventually made four closing pars to finish tied for 41st on 14 over.
Confessing that his frustration with the US Open got the better of him, McIlroy said: “I just hit a bad tee shot into the creek there, and what you don’t want to do as a golfer is follow one mistake with another, and that’s what I did. And obviously I got a bit frustrated there.
“It’s a hole that you want to try to take advantage of. It’s a hole that you want to at least give yourself a birdie chance. And you walk off with a quad and it’s not very good.”
Asked if the incident summed up his week, he said: “Yeah, I think that’s what this tournament does to you. At one point or another it’s got the better of you, and it definitely did this weekend.”
He was also critical of the set up, describing the pin positions as “on the edge.”
He said: “I can see that they’re trying to protect the scores and stuff. But the pin position on seven today, for example, was on the back of a slope.
“At least put it a couple of yards down so it’s on the flat part of the green. They decided to put it on a ridge. It’s a US Open.”
McIlroy also admitted that he should have played more golf earlier in the season but added: “I sound like a broken record, but I don’t feel like my game is that far away. That’s what I’ve been taking out of this week. It’s a matter of trying to let it all click into place.”
Padraig Harrington had three bogeys and one birdie in a two over 72 to finish inside the top 20 on 11 over par and walked away insisting that he’d love to play a US Open every week.
Frustrated to make just six birdies in four rounds, Harrington said: “I left shots out there. I wish every week was a US Open.
“I feel I hit it as bad as I could this week to be 11 over par. I didn’t hole my birdie putts all week. Especially today I missed a lot of chances and you need to hole those birdie putts to really give yourself a little bit of room.”
It was also another frustrating week in the majors for Tiger Woods, who signed off with a 74 to finish on 13 over having averaged 32 putts per round.
Set to begin his sixth major-less year today, Woods blamed his inability to read the creeping bentgrass greens for his latest failure to capture that elusive 15th major.
With any hopes a final round charge derailed by a triple bogey eight after driving out of bounds at the second, Woods said: “I struggled with the speed, especially right around the hole, putts were breaking a lot more, I gave it a little more break and then it would hang. That’s kind of the way it was this week.
“There’s always a lesson to be learned in every tournament whether you win or lose. I’ll look back at the things I did right and the things I did wrong.
“I did a lot of things right. Unfortunately I did a few things wrong, as well.”
McIlroy’s bad-tempered attitude contrasted hugely with the politeness of Waterford Castle amateur Kevin Phelan, who had three birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey seven in a closing 74 that left him on 20 over par.
The 22-year old, who will fly out to Dublin tomorrow (Tues) to begin his preparations for next week’s Irish Open at Carton House, thoroughly enjoyed his 72 hole experience at Merion which guarantees him a place in Sectional Qualifying for next year’s US Open and improves his chances of a Walker Cup call up.
“I hit a couple of stupid shots, but overall played very well,” said the Jacksonville based Irishman who plans to turn professional in September whether he makes the Walker Cup side or not. “It was nice to make the cut and play the weekend and see what that’s like in a major. It was nice to get a feel for that - it gave me a lot to take away.”
One of Ireland’s leading candidates for a place in the Walker Cup side to face the Americans in New York in September, Phelan bowed out by holing a slick downhill putt for birdie at the 14th followed by a 25 foot bomb for another birdie at the 15th alongside playing partner Peter Hedblom.
Two closing bogeys could not take the gloss off a sensational week for the University of North Florida psychology student, who made a brief appearance near the top of the leaderboard on Thursday thanks to a one over 71 in the first round.
Now his ambition is to play well on the Montgomerie Course at Carton House before his likely selection for the European Amateur Team Championship, the European Individual Championship and the Interpros at Lee Valley in Cork over the next month.
Whether he earns Walker Cup honours or not, Phelan plans to turn professional the following week and seek his fortune in either Europe or the US.
“I’ll be going for both cards and I was told that because I made the cut here I get through the first stage on the PGA Tour Q-School for the Web.com Tour. The dates work out and allow me to try on both sides of the Atlantic, so I’ll give it a go.”