Justin Rose won the U.S. Open title for England on Sunday and broke Phil Mickelson’s heart into the bargain, but the story for Irish golf fans, once again, centered on the enigma that is Rory McIlroy.
Not for the first time this season, McIlroy found himself in trouble with the golfing authorities and the headline writers in what proved to be a disappointing tournament for the Irish.
Graeme McDowell, champion in 2010, and former British Open winner Darren Clarke spent the weekend with their feet up after missing the cut, while Padraig Harrington should have done better than his tied 21st finish.
Amateur Kevin Phelan, a youngster from Waterford now studying in the U.S., did himself proud by making the cut and finishing tied for 62nd in his second U.S. Open appearance.
For many, though, the story of the weekend was McIlroy’s latest fall from grace.
Not alone did the world number two finish on 14 over par after a fourth round 76, to tie for 41st, he was also caught on camera throwing a club away in disgust at one hole, then bending his nine iron so badly after a poor tee shot at the 11th that he couldn’t use it for the rest of the round.
The club throw came on the fifth hole at Merion, and he then destroyed his nine iron after putting a second ball into the creek on the 11th.
Just 14 months after his record breaking U.S. PGA triumph, McIlroy is in the horrors after splitting with his manager Conor Ridge and failing to adapt to his new Nike clubs despite the comforts of a $150 million deal with the sportswear giants.
He is also the subject of a court case from the Oakley company which is claiming millions of dollars in losses after his switch to Nike.
The player himself knows all is not well at the minute, and he did try to make excuses after his poor U.S. Open finish.
On Sunday evening he said, “I sound like a broken record. But I don’t feel like my game is that far away. It’s a matter of trying to let it click into place.”
Asked about the nine iron situation at the 11th, he replied, “I just hit a bad tee shot into the creek there, and what you don’t want to do as a golfer is follow one mistake with another, and that’s what I did. And obviously I got a bit frustrated there.
“It’s a hole that you want to try to take advantage of. It’s a hole that you want to at least give yourself a birdie chance and you walk off with a quad and it’s not very good.
“I think that’s what this tournament does to you. At one point or another it’s got the better of you, and it definitely did this weekend.”
Significantly, McIlroy did admit he is finding it hard to adjust to his new Nike clubs after years with Titleist.
“It’s definitely a different feeling,” he said. “The thing about new equipment is you can stand on the range all you want and hit balls, but you really need to test it on the course.
“The numbers could be great on the computer, but you need to get out and test it in competitive play and that’s something I didn’t do at the start of the year. I only played twice by the end of February, so I sort of needed to play a little bit more.
“If I was to do it all over again, I would have done things slightly differently. It’s hopefully something I’ll never have to do in my career again.”
In other golf news, Ulsterman Simon Thornton claimed his first win on the European Tour as he beat Tjaart van der Walt on the first playoff hole at the St. Omer Open in France on Sunday.