He had his first 54-lead in a major for the first time in eight years. The golf world all thought things were different this time. But the golf gods of St Andrews had other ideas.
McIlroy, chasing his first major title in eight years, hit the Old Course’s back nine with a two shot lead and the crowd revelling in what might be. Minutes later, Cameron Smith birdied the hole up ahead.
The Australian then birdied the next four. From nowhere, McIlroy was somehow chasing on a back nine giving him nothing.
The 150th Open gave the Northern Irishman the opportunity to become a great. But to be great, you must do great things. The birdie at ten was the only shot he picked up on a back nine that was destroyed by Smith.
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“Just disappointment, I guess,” said McIlroy immediately afterwards to US TV. “I had a good opportunity today to add to that major tally and I didn’t quite get it done. I didn’t feel like I did many things wrong but the putter just sort of went cold on me there, pretty much throughout the round. I did what I wanted to do, I played a really controlled round of golf. I didn’t take advantage of some of the holes I have taken advantage of this week.”
Smith was playing in the group in front and McIlroy said he was well aware what was going on up ahead.
“When Cam Smith went on that run on the back nine, I really had to try to dig deep and make some birdies and I just couldn’t. I got beaten by the better player today. To go out and shoot 64 to win an Open at St Andrews is a hell of…
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