Rory McIlroy reacts to a shot on the second hole Sunday during the final round of the U.S. Open in Los Angeles. McIlroy shot an even-par 70 to finish at 9 under for the tournament – one behind winner Wyndham Clark. George Walker IV/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Rory McIlroy got the sort of break most players need to win a U.S. Open. If only he could’ve made a putt or two to go with it.

The golf gods, to say nothing of the golf rulebook, gave McIlroy a chance to save par after his approach shot on the 14th hole came up short and embedded in the deep grass above a greenside bunker. But McIlroy missed his putt – a common theme on Sunday – and made his only bogey of the day. That single shot proved costly in a one-stroke loss to Wyndham Clark.

McIlroy shot even-par 70 – one birdie, 16 pars and that single bogey – to finish at 9-under 271. His drought in the majors is now at 33 tournaments, a dry spell that is nearing nine full years.

“I think the putter, I’ll rue some of the chances that I missed,” McIlroy said. “It was hard to get the ball really close all day. It was that, and that wedge shot on 14, coming up a little short, those are the things I’ll rue today.”

He finished the day with 36 putts over 18 holes – no need for complex math there – and didn’t sink a single putt over 8 feet.

His attempt to tie things on the 18th green looked like most all of the 18 birdie tries he had over a day in which he hit the ball as well as anyone from tee to green. It was a 40 footer that looked like it was tracking, but drifted away at the end for a simple tap-in.


But if there was a single moment that defined the day for McIlroy, it came on the par-5 14th. After driving into the left rough, he punched out to the fairway and had a 125-yard shot into the narrow green.

The approach came up short. He put both hands on his knees, bent down and stared at his caddie, Harry Diamond, in disbelief. Moments later, McIlroy was down on his knees near the bunker, desperately trying to find the ball that had disappeared in the gnarly grass above the sand.

He not only found it, but found it embedded in the facing just above the bunker. In the past, an embedded ball that wasn’t in the fairway had to be played as it lied. But after a reworking of the rulebook in 2019, free relief is now granted for any ball embedded in any area other than sand.

McIlroy dropped above the bunker, 40 feet away in a perfectly workable lie. He chipped to 10 feet, but missed the par putt. His only bogey of the day put him three shots behind Clark.

“I felt like my chance was sort of gone,” McIlroy said.

Clark wobbled with two bogeys down the stretch. But McIlroy, his putter still ice-cold, couldn’t convert birdie tries from 22, 62, 33 or 40 feet over the last four holes.

There was no cashing in on the 15 greens he hit in regulation, tying Jon Rahm for best in the fourth round. McIlroy also hit 59 greens for the week – six more than anyone else in the field. That’s often a formula for victory. Instead, McIlroy will go to Hoylake next month for the British Open still without a major title since the 2014 PGA Championship.

“I’m right there,” McIlroy said. “It’s such fine margins at this level. I keep putting myself in these positions and sooner or later it’s going to happen for me again.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.