Home Golf US Open 2023: Rory McIlroy Disappoints as Wyndham Clark Emerges Victor in Standard LA Challenge

US Open 2023: Rory McIlroy Disappoints as Wyndham Clark Emerges Victor in Standard LA Challenge

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US Open 2023

Rory McIlroy, as he openly admits, is his most significant supporter for securing a major, and no one would have been more disappointed than him when he lost by one shot to Wyndham Clark at the US Open.

The Northern Irishman let another opportunity slip away. Though he’s getting closer, it’s impossible to overlook that the recent Sunday presented a golden opportunity to achieve his fifth major and break a nine-year dry spell in the most significant tournaments in golf.

Triumphing in this game is difficult, but winning major titles is exponentially harder, especially when a player appears to have his long game under control, as displayed on the robust championship terrain of the Los Angeles Country Club.

From tee to green, McIlroy hardly put a foot wrong, consistently hitting fairways and greens. However, like last year at St Andrews, his putter went cold.

Previously, Cameron Smith outpaced him to win The Open; this time, it was Clark who reaped the benefits. Both champions merit tremendous praise for their deserving wins, but this offers little comfort to McIlroy.

Sunday’s defeat was even more painful because of two key mistakes on the par-fives, which significantly contributed to his continuing major championship struggle.

The world’s third-ranked player’s birdie attempt from four feet on the eighth didn’t even touch the hole, a grievous error that came at a time when he could have exerted substantial pressure on someone playing only his seventh major.

McIlroy’s relatively short birdie attempt at the next might have had a different outcome had the previous one been successful. The bogey at the long 14th, where he had salvaged an off-target tee shot to leave a basic wedge approach, was even more disappointing.

Instead of setting up a birdie shot, he ended up chipping from the rough around a greenside bunker after his third shot got stuck in the face of the obstacle. The up and down proved too challenging.

Despite his talents, McIlroy often fails to capitalize when it’s most needed on par-fives. How he wishes he didn’t have to reflect on such missed opportunities.

That seems to be a recurring theme for Rory. A player who can win anything else, except the tournaments that matter the most, yet frequently finds himself in the mix at these events more than any other player.

“In the last seven major championships, I’ve finished in the top 10 six times,” McIlroy mused. “In those, I had two excellent opportunities, and it just didn’t work out.”

“But every time these tournaments come around, I seem to find my game enough to contend, and I just need to keep putting myself in these positions.”

His next chance will be at The Open at Royal Liverpool in a month, where he last won in 2014. Recollections of that week will compete with numerous subsequent mental hurdles to shape McIlroy’s mindset this time.

Each missed opportunity makes it more challenging the next time he is in contention, especially given the current level of competition in global golf.

Clark is now part of that conversation. In Hollywood, home to new stars, the 29-year-old Denver native went from being a 125-1 long shot to a golf superstar seemingly overnight.

Sure, he won at Quail Hollow last month, but few besides him considered him a real threat leading up to the US Open. Standing beside the coveted silver trophy, he said, “I feel like I belong on this stage.”

“And even two, three years ago when people didn’t know who I was, I felt like I could still play and compete against the best players in the world. This year, I feel like I’ve proven that.

“I’ve come up close, and while everyone only sees the one lifting the trophy, I’ve been trending in the right direction for a while now. I’ve made numerous cuts.

“I’ve had several top 10s and top 20s, and I feel like I’ve been on a great trajectory to get to this place.

“I’ve progressed faster than I thought, mentally tackling things I’ve never done before, but I feel like I’m one of the best players in the world. This just confirms what I believe is possible.”

Clark looks set to make his Ryder Cup debut for the United States in September, and his first major victory should instill confidence.

This unusual US Open took place amid uncertainty caused by the proposed alliance between the PGA and DP World Tours and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The event was also tainted by corporate interests, with 14,000 of the 22,000 daily attendees on hospitality packages rather than traditional ticketed golf fans. As a result, the atmosphere was lacking despite the intense competition.

The unusually late tee times on Saturday didn’t help, with Clark leading the complaints about having to finish his round in near darkness after starting at 15:40 local time, all to satisfy US television demands.

Despite the superb quality of golf, the organization’s exclusive focus on the American audience for their national championship was a disappointment. If the USGA is truly committed to growing the sport, perhaps they should consider a global approach?

However, for the leaders late on Saturday and Sunday, the par-70 layout presented a quintessential US Open challenge – a classic test of physical and mental resilience.

In the end, it was a challenge that the resilient Clark overcame and the increasingly frustrated McIlroy could not.

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