Rory: Not As Close To His Fifth Major As We May Think
23 Jun,2023

By Tim Liotta


Rory: Not As Close To His Fifth Major As We May Think

Within minutes of Windham Clark sinking his short putt to win the 123rd U.S. Open, the NBC broadcast cut to interview with Rory McIlroy, who had failed for the 34th tie since 2014 to win his fifth major title, and the NBC's Dana Carr immediately asked if it was the putter let Rory down - again.

"Yeah, the putter. Yeah, I think the putter, I'll rue the number of chances that I missed," McIlroy said. 


According to official USGA stats, McIlroy needed 36 putts on Sunday, and while he not make a single putt of any length in Sunday's final round en route to finishing a stroke behind Clark in at the Los Angeles Country Club, it was the sentence he added that may come closer to serving as an explanation. 

"I felt like I didn't get the ball, I felt like it was really hard to get the ball really close all day," McIlroy added. 

Let's look at the list of Rory McIlroy's approach shots on Sunday (tee shots on par 3s are included, and if it was his second shot on a par 5 that served as an approach, that is noted as well):

1st Hole - Par 5, from 215 yards to green, APPROACH to 33 feet, 6 inches. Two-putt BIRDIE

2nd Hole - From fairway 158 yards to green, APPROACH to 60 feet, 4 inches. Two-putt PAR

3rd Hole - From fairway 99 yards to green, APPROACH to 16 feet, 2 inchese. Two-putt PAR

4th Hole - From tee 237 yards to green, APPROACH to 24 feet, 5 inches. Two-putt PAR

5th Hole - From right rough 144 yards to green, APPROACH to 113 feet. Two-putt from off the green PAR

6th Hole - From right rough 51 yards to green, APPROACH to 30 feet, 11 inches. Two-putt PAR

7th Hole - From tee 270 yards to green, APPROACH to 32 feet, 9 inches. Two-putt PAR

8th Hole - Par 5, 233 yards to green, second-shot APPROACH to 34 feet, 6 inches on fringe. Three-putt PAR

9th Hole - From tee 159 yards to green, APPROACH to 14 feet, 1 inch. Two-putt PAR

10th Hole - From fairway 88 yards to green, APPROACH to 15 feet, 3 inches. Two-putt PAR

11th Hole - From tee 299 yards to green, APPROACH to 18 feet, 3 inches. Two-putt PAR

12th Hole - From fairway 163 yards to green, APPROACH to 33 feet, 10 inch. Two-putt PAR 

13th Hole - From fairway 180 yards to green, APPROACH to 34 feet, 8 inches. Two-putt PAR

14th Hole - From fairway 117 yards to green, APPROACH to Native Area, 26 feet, 3 inches from hole. Gets drop. BOGEY 

15th Hole - From tee 135 yards to green, APPROACH to 21 feet, 9 inches. 

16th Hole - From left rough, 200 yards to green, APPROACH to 62 feet, 7 inches. Two-putt PAR

17th Hole - From other fairway, 216 yards to green, APPROACH to 33 feet, 3 inchs. Two-putt PAR

18th Hole - From right fairway, 186 yards to green, APPROACH to 40 feet, 7 inches. Two-putt PAR

To summarize: 

McIlroy gave himself nine approaches from a fairway (or tee on a par 3) within 200 yards of the green (average distance 143 yards) on Sunday. On these shots, his approach averaged 29 feet from the hole. On the back nine, he had five approaches from a fairway or tee. On these shots his ball ended up an averag of 30 feet, 5 inches from the hole.

 Only six times (on 1, 3, second putt on 8, 9, 10, 11) did he give himself a birdie putt of less than 20 feet. On his 4 approaches inside 120 yards (3, 6, 10, 14 - not counting his third shot on 8, a 6-foot-7 inch putt), those shots averaged finishing 19 feet, 10 inches from the hole. 

Meanwhile, Wyndham Clark was hitting the kind of golf shots that win golf tournaments. Saturday's approach on 18 - from 170 yards to 6 feet, 2 inches. Sunday's approach on 4 - from 232 yards to 5 feet. Sunday's second shot on 14 - from 282 yards to 20 feet, 6 inches. Clark put himself in positions to make putts. 

"The last real two chances I've had at majors I feel like have been pretty similar performances, like St Andrews last year and then here," McIlroy said. "Not doing a lot wrong, but I didn't make a birdie since the first hole today. Just trying to be a little more, I guess, efficient with my opportunities and my looks.

"Again, overall when you're in contention going into the final round of a U.S. Open, I played the way I wanted to play. There was just a couple of shots, two or three shots over the course of the round that I'd like to have back."

Rory has repeatedly been complimented for taking an major-championship approach credited to Tiger Woods, on that minimizes risk and rewards patience, first in the Open Championship at St. Andrews last summer, and now here at Los Angleles Country Club. Tiger always seemed to sprinkle in shots that would win the golf tournament. Rory's approach - neither here nor at St. Andrews last summer - has included those kinds of shots.   

There may also be two unspoken factors that may have contributed to Rory being forced to settle for second-place finishes with his "give myself a chance" approach. 

First, he is not as good as Tiger - no slight there.

Second, the competition Rory faces today may be a whole lot better than the opposition Tiger faced 15-20 years ago.