How Rory McIlroy used High Line to get over 'great day until it wasn't'

World No 2 feeling confident that he can continue ‘theme’ of his career by bouncing back after US Open heartache

Rory McIlroy hit the High Line in Manhattan after suffering one of the lowest ebbs of his career, having decided that “trying to blend in with the city” was a good way to attempt to get over his US Open heartbreak at Pinehurst last month.

Ahead of his Genesis Scottish Open title defence this week at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian, the Northern Irishman spoke for the first time about being pipped by Bryson DeChambeau in North Carolina after missing two short putts in the final three holes.

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“I think the way I've described Pinehurst on Sunday was like it was a great day until it wasn't,” said McIlroy, who, before those two untimely late slip ups, had holed putt after putt in the final circuit to put himself on the verge of ending a ten-year drought in golf’s marquee events.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy laughs in a press conference ahead of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian. Picture: Harry How/Getty Images.Defending champion Rory McIlroy laughs in a press conference ahead of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian. Picture: Harry How/Getty Images.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy laughs in a press conference ahead of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian. Picture: Harry How/Getty Images.

“I did things on that Sunday that I haven't been able to do in the last couple years. Took control of the golf tournament. Holed putts when I needed to. Well, mostly when I needed to. Made birdies. You know, really got myself in there. And then, look, obviously unfortunately to miss the putt on 16 and obviously the putt on 18.

“Yeah, it was a tough day. It was a tough few days after that, obviously. But I think as you get further away from it happening, you start to see the positives and you start to see all the good things that you did throughout the week.

“Yeah, there's learnings in there, too, right. I can vividly remember starting to feel a little uncomfortable waiting for my second putt on 16, and, you know, the putt on the last, it was a really tricky putt. And I was very aware of where Bryson was off the tee. I knew I had to hit it really soft. If the one back didn't matter, I would have hit it firmer.

“But because I was sort of in two minds, I didn't know whether Bryson was going to make a par or not, it was one of those ones where I had to make sure that if the putt didn't go in, that it wasn't going ten feet by, which it very easily could have.

McIlroy won the Scottish Open last year.McIlroy won the Scottish Open last year.
McIlroy won the Scottish Open last year.

“Thinking back, yeah, maybe I was a little too aware of where Bryson was and what he was doing, but it was the nature of the golf course and how the golf course flowed. So it sort of got me out of my own little world a little bit.

“But, when I look back on that day, just like I look back on some of my toughest moments in my career, I'll learn a lot from it and I'll hopefully put that to good use. It's something that's been a bit of a theme throughout my career. I've been able to take those tough moments and turn them into great things not very long after that.”

McIlroy had been due to play in the Travelers Championship, one of the PGA Tour’s signature events, the following week before deciding to sit that out and make this week’s $9 million Rolex Series event in East Lothian his time to get back on the horse instead.

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“It was okay,” insisted McIlroy in reply to being asked how difficult it had been to process how close he’d come to landing a fifth major. “I went home on Sunday night and actually spent Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday in Manhattan, which was nice. It was nice to sort of blend in with the city a little bit.

McIlroy reacts after finishing the 18th hole during the final round of the 124th US Open at Pinehurst.McIlroy reacts after finishing the 18th hole during the final round of the 124th US Open at Pinehurst.
McIlroy reacts after finishing the 18th hole during the final round of the 124th US Open at Pinehurst.

“I walked around. I walked the High Line a couple of times. I made a few phone calls. Sort of was alone with my thoughts for a couple days, which was good. I had some good chats with people close to me, and as you start to think about not just Sunday at Pinehurst but the whole way throughout the week, there was a couple of things that I noticed that I wanted to try to work on over the last few weeks coming into here and obviously next week at Troon.

“They were hard but, at the same time, as each day went by, it became easier to focus on the positives and then to think about the future instead of what had just happened.”

McIlroy was asked in a separate event how much missing out on this occasion had hurt. “I think as you achieve more in the game, you can soften the blow, if you look at everything I've been able to accomplish,” he said. “It's been a while since I've won a major but it hurt, but I felt worse after some other losses. I felt worse after Augusta in '11 (when he squandered a four-hole lead in the final round of The Masters) and I felt worse after St Andrews (where, after sharing the lead at the 54-hole stage, he lost out to Cam Smith in the 150th Open in 2022). It was up there with the tough losses, but not the toughest.

“I still think about the short missed putt that I missed at Crans-sur-Sierre in 2008 in a play-off (in the European Masters). You think about all of them. And I was probably more devastated after that because it was my rookie year on Tour; I hadn't won yet. I remember feeling really bad after that for like a good week.

"Yeah, I stewed on what happened at Pinehurst for a couple of days, but then, yeah, thankfully I can go home and look at what I've achieved in the game and sort of feel okay about myself. Look, it was a great opportunity. It passed me by but hopefully when I get that next opportunity, it won't pass me by.”

Is next week’s trip to Troon a chance for redemption? “It's just another opportunity,” he said. “I'm playing great golf and it's another opportunity to see how I can hopefully handle it better than I handled it a few weeks ago.”

Even then, the world No 2 doesn’t feel he needs to do anything drastically different to get over the line again in a major and that bounce back-ability he talked about certainly served him well when he won the next major, the US Open, by eight shots in 2011 . “I think if anything, I'd say my pre-shot routine got a little bit long,” he said of Pinehurst.

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"Started to look at the target a few more times over the ball. And then, you know, as I said, like being very aware of what maybe some others were doing on the golf course and not really staying in my own little world for the whole 18 holes. But really, apart from that, there's not a lot I would do differently.”

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