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DeChambeau wins U.S. Open as McIlroy falters

By admin Jun19,2024

  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior WriterJun 16, 2024, 07:01 PM ET

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    • Senior college football writer
    • Author of seven books on college football
    • Graduate of the University of Georgia

PINEHURST, N.C. — The 18th hole at Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday turned LIV Golf League captain Bryson DeChambeau into a U.S. Open champion again — and left Rory McIlroy still trying to end his nearly 10-year drought without a major championship victory after arguably the most heartbreaking near-miss of his career.

After watching McIlroy inexplicably miss a short par putt for the second time in three holes on the 18th, DeChambeau hit a difficult punch shot from near a tree root in the native area and into a bunker across the fairway. From 55 yards away, he chipped to about 4 feet and sunk a par putt to finish 6 under — 1 shot better than McIlroy.

“I was going to try and birdie the hole on 18, obviously, if I hit a good drive, but pulled it,” DeChambeau said. “But I knew where Rory was. After my tee shot, I was up there going, ‘Man, if he makes par, I don’t know how I’m going to beat him.’ I just really didn’t know. Then I heard the moans. Like a shot of adrenaline got in me. I said, ‘OK, you can do this.'”

With DeChambeau and McIlroy tied at 6 under — and McIlroy playing in the group in front of the final one — both players pulled their tee shots into the unpredictable native area near the grandstand on the left of the fairway on No. 18.

McIlroy’s ball came to rest behind a large clump of wiregrass about 123 yards from the hole. His only option was to blast the ball through the grass and up the fairway. His approach stopped just short of the green. He chipped to 4 feet and missed the par putt. He made the short bogey putt and could only watch DeChambeau finish.

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McIlroy watched DeChambeau’s winning putt on TV in the scorer’s room. He sped out of the players’ parking lot in a courtesy SUV less than 10 minutes later. He didn’t talk to the media.

“Rory is one of the best to ever play,” DeChambeau said. “Being able to fight against a great like that is pretty special. For him to miss that putt, I’d never wish it on anybody. It just happened to play out that way.”

As DeChambeau walked off the 18th green as a two-time U.S. Open champion, he screamed, “That’s Payne right there, baby!” He was referring to Payne Stewart, who defeated Phil Mickelson by 1 stroke with a 15-foot par putt on the 72nd hole of the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

Stewart died in a plane crash on Oct. 25, 1999. DeChambeau said seeing a mural of Stewart was one of the reasons he decided to attend SMU.

DeChambeau called his chip out of the bunker on the 18th hole the “best shot of my life.”

“I was just trying to land it pretty much where I landed it and run it out to the right,” DeChambeau said. “I remember Payne’s putt and how it broke up there, and I knew that was obviously huge to get up and down to win this prestigious championship that will be the highlight of my life. I still can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable.”

Matthieu Pavon, who was playing with DeChambeau, called his work on No. 18 a “master class.”

“What’s most impressive about Bryson is not that he hits the ball far,” Pavon said. “Everybody knows it. But I was amazed by the quality of the short game on 18. He’s a hell of a player. He has no weakness, and he’s a truly great champion.”

DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open champion at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, started the final round with a 3-stroke lead. He briefly lost it to McIlroy on the back nine before pulling it out in the end.

DeChambeau carded a 1-over 71 in the final round. He is the first U.S. Open champion to record a score over par in the final round since Graeme McDowell (3-over 74) at Pebble Beach Golf Links in 2010.

“When I turned the corner and saw I was a couple back, I said, ‘Nope, I’m not going to let that happen. I have to focus on figuring out how to make this happen,'” DeChambeau said. “I was a little lucky. Rory didn’t make a couple putts that he could have coming in.”

McIlroy posted a 1-under 69 and finished runner-up in a major for the fourth time in his career. He also finished solo second, 1 stroke behind Wyndham Clark, in the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. He is the second player in the past 40 years to finish runner-up by 1 shot in the same major in consecutive years; Jim Furyk did it in the U.S. Open in 2006-07.

Tony Finau (3-under 67) and Patrick Cantlay (even-par 70) tied for third at 4 under. Pavon, who was attempting to become the first golfer from France to win the U.S. Open, was fifth after posting a 1-over 71 on Sunday.

The first U.S. Open played at Pinehurst No. 2 in a decade will be remembered as much for McIlroy’s collapse as for DeChambeau’s victory. McIlroy was trying to win his first major championship since the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.

After finally wresting the lead from DeChambeau with birdies on Nos. 9, 10, 12 and 13 to become the first golfer to get to 8 under for a 2-shot advantage, McIlroy had one of the most forgettable finishes of any final-round leader in a major.

McIlroy carded bogeys on Nos. 15, 16 and 18 to fall back to 5 under. On the par-3 15th, he blasted his tee shot over the green and couldn’t get up and down for par.

After DeChambeau missed a 4-foot par putt on No. 15 to give McIlroy a 1-shot lead, McIlroy inexplicably hit a 2½-foot par putt on No. 16 too hard and it lipped out. He hadn’t missed a putt inside 3 feet all season.

McIlroy played the final four holes in 3 over, becoming the first runner-up by a stroke to do that in the U.S. Open since Mickelson in 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. Mickelson also played Nos. 15-18 in 3 over and lost to Geoff Ogilvy by 1 stroke.

“He’ll win multiple more major championships, there’s no doubt,” DeChambeau said. “I think that fire in him is going to continue to grow. I have nothing but respect for how he plays the game of golf because, to be honest, when he was climbing up the leaderboard, he was 2 ahead, I was like, ‘Uh-oh, uh-oh.’ But luckily things went my way today.”

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