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June 23, 2024

Calling Rory’s miss a collapse misses the mark

By Dan Vukelich, Alabama Golf News Online Editor – OPINION
Rory McIlroy

His Pinehurt stats tell a different story

It took the a few days, but someone finally had a take on the missed putt by Rory McIlroy at the U.S. Open that didn’t use the word “collapse.”

And that was Jon Rahm.

Rahm, who did not compete at Pinehurst because of an injury, spoke up for his Ryder Cup teammate to point out that the 3-foot-nine-inch downhill breaker that McIlroy missed on No. 18 was by no means a gimme.

At a news conference ahead of this past weekend’s LIV Golf event in Nashville. Rahm said that NBC Sports on-course commentator Symlie Kaufman  “severely understated how difficult Rory’s putt on 18 was.”

“When he said it’s a ‘left-center putt,’ if you hit it left-center and you miss the hole, you’re off the green, because of how much slope there is.”

He added: “Unless you’ve been there on the golf course and you’re playing it, if you’ve played it, it’s hard to truly explain how difficult that golf course is.”

The “Rory collapsed” crowd neglects to mention how many nerve-wracking up-and-down chips and putts McIlroy made through 69 holes of the 72-hole competition to get in a position to win the event.He missed one on 16, as did winner Bryson Dechambeau. McIlroy missed a putt on 18 while Dechambeau made a spectacular up-and-down from a bunker.

The case can be made that McIlroy’s putt on 18 was magnitudes harder than Dechambeau’s relatively straight uphill four-footer to win.

Rory McIlroy putted well at the U.S. Open – for him

McIlroy, who has frustrated his fans for much of his recent career with an uncanny ability to regularly miss makeable putts within eight feet, putted exceptionally well (for him) at Pinehurst, finishing T16 in putting, compared to Dechambeau’s 10th-place ranking.

McIlroy, currently No. 2 in the Overall World Golf Rankings and No. 3rd in PGA Tour’s FedEx standings, ranks only 20th among PGA Tour players. so his above-average putting performance on Pinehurst No. 2’s domed green is worth noting.

For other performance comparisons between McIlroy and Dechambeau, consider these statistics compiled by the USGA:

In strokes gained, McIlroy was T9; Dechambeau was T23.

In greens in regulation, McIlroy was T4, Dechambeau was T7.

In fairways hit, McIlroy was T3; Dechambeau was T66.

In driving distance, McIlroy was No. 2, with an average of 328.3 yards, 7.8 yards behind only DeChambeau, who was No. 1.

In sand saves, Dechambeau (T16) significantly out-performed McIlroy (T65).

Yet, ultimately, it’s the scorecard that tells us who won. Dechambeau’s score of 6-under was one stroke better than McIlroy’s, so he took home the trophy.

But to stay with the stats for a bit longer and revisit that fairway-accuracy stat for the two men. It’s relevant since Pinehurst, now a USGA U.S. Open “anchor site,” will host the event again in 2029 and again every few years after that.

In four rounds across Pinehurst No. 2’s 7,548 yards, McIlroy found 46 of 56 fairways, or 82 percent. In the final found, he hit 11 of 14 fairways, or 79 percent.

Dechambeau, in contrast, hit just 32 of 56 fairways over four days, or 57 percent. And on Sunday, he hit a pathetic five of 14 fairways or 36 percent. In fact, in fairways hit, Dechambeau bested only six of the 73 players who played all four rounds at the U.S. Open.

That stat alone should tell the USGA something about Pinehurst No. 2’s vulnerability as a championship venue going forward. Thirteen-time PGA Tour winner and winner of the 1989 British Open Mark Calcavecchia, who doesn’t think much of Pinehurst No. 2,  called hitting into its rough “pot luck.”

Indeed, TV viewers saw player after player blast through No. 2’s wire grass and sandy waste areas – most of them successful in getting the ball on or near the green.  Compare that to the chances of such recoveries from the the tall fescue of courses that host the British Open.

Imagine Dechambeau winning the Open at Royal Troon with such an abysmal fairway-accuracy stat. Indeed, the Open’s website seems to speak directly to him, prominently declaring, “Fear the rough.”

So, yeah, Rory McIlroy played exceptionally well at the U.S. Open and came up short, and, yes, Dechambeau, despite his lack of his driving accuracy, won, as the world waits to see what happens in Britain next month.

But to the point of this piece: Is it fair to say McIlroy “collapsed”?

“Collapse,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary means “to fall or shrink together abruptly and completely ; fall into a jumbled or flattened mass through the force of external pressure.”

A secondary definition is “to break down completely ; disintegrate.”

And a third definition is “to cave or fall in or give way.”

And still another meaning is “to break down in vital energy, stamina, or self-control through exhaustion or disease.”

Rory McIlroy, who came within one shot of winning his fifth major, did none of those things.

He missed a putt, a slippery breaking downhill putt thatnobody in his right mind would want on the final hole of a major.

Dan Vukelich is the online editor of Alabama Golf News

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Featured image courtesy of TourProGolf Clubs via Flickr

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