Disappointed Rory McIlroy admits Cameron Smith was ‘the better player’
A gracious Rory McIlroy praised Open champion Cameron Smith after the Australian’s stunning final round secured his first major title at St Andrews.
McIlroy began the day in a tie for the lead and was two shots ahead at the turn, but a closing bogey-free closing 70 proved insufficient to end his eight-year drought in the game’s biggest tournaments.
Smith fired eight birdies – including five in a row from the 10th – to card his second 64 of the week and finish 20 under par, beating the previous best of 19 under on the Old Course set by Tiger Woods in 2000.
“(I’m) disappointed obviously,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I didn’t do much wrong today, but I didn’t do much right either.
“It’s just one of those days where I played a really controlled round of golf. I did what I felt like I needed to just apart from (not) capitalising on the easier holes around the turn, nine, 12, 14.
“If I had made the birdies there from good positions, it probably would have been a different story.
“But, look, I got beaten by a better player this week; 20 under par for four rounds of golf around here is really, really impressive playing, especially to go out and shoot 64 today to get it done.
“I’ll rue a few missed putts that slid by, but it’s been a good week overall. I can’t be too despondent because of how this year’s going.
“I’m playing some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. So it’s just a matter of keep knocking on the door, and eventually one will open.
“I’ll be okay. At the end of the day, it’s not life or death. I’ll have other chances to win the Open Championship and other chances to win majors. It’s one that I feel like I let slip away, but there will be other opportunities.
“I’ve just got to keep putting myself in position, keep putting myself in there. And whenever you put yourself in that shining light, you’re going to have to deal with setbacks and deal with failures.
“Today is one of those times. But I just have to dust myself off and come again and keep working hard and keep believing.”
McIlroy and his family were staying in a hotel overlooking the 18th hole of the Old Course and the 33-year-old admitted he kept imagining seeing his name on top of the leaderboard behind the green at the end of play on Sunday.
“I’m only human. I’m not a robot,” McIlroy said. “Of course you think about it, and you envision it, and you want to envision it.
“My hotel room is directly opposite the big yellow board on 18 there and every time I go out, I’m trying to envision McIlroy as the top name on that leaderboard and how did that feel?
“At the start of the day it was at the top, but at the start of tomorrow it won’t be. Of course you’ve got to let yourself dream.
“You’ve got to let yourself think about it and what it would be like, but once I was on the golf course, it was just the task at hand and trying to play the best golf I possibly could.”
New Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald motivated by ‘bitter’ memories of 2021 defeat
Stenson was stripped of the role for breaking his contract by joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
The task facing Luke Donald after replacing Henrik Stenson
Stenson was appointed on March 15 and said he was fully committed to a role before signing with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
Tony Finau claims second straight PGA Tour victory
The American won the 3M Open in his previous outing.
Henrik Stenson cushions Ryder Cup blow with £3.6m debut win in LIV Golf
The Swede was stripped of his role as Europe captain after joining the Saudi-backed breakaway tour.
Former Masters champion Bubba Watson becomes latest player to join LIV Golf
The left-hander is currently sidelined by a knee injury and is not expected to play until next season,
Luke Donald tipped to replace Henrik Stenson as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain
The Swede lost the job 127 days after his appointment following his decision to join the LIV Golf series.
Max Homa: Tiger Woods now understands the respect he commands from his peers
Homa has made no secret of his admiration for Woods.
Bernard Gallacher fears Greg Norman is not the man for compromise with LIV Golf
Players who have resigned from the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf will not be eligible for next year’s Ryder Cup.
Brooke Henderson takes two-shot lead into final round of Evian Championship
South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon climbed into outright second place on 15 under.