Lost in the drama of Cameron Smith‘s comeback for the ages at The 150th Open Championship was the fact that Rory McIlroy once again failed to win that elusive fifth major.
The now 33-year-old Northern Irishman finished solo third at St Andrews and will officially enter the major championship offseason holding the same four major titles he owned as a 25-year-old.
“Yeah, I’ll rue a few missed sort of putts that slid by. But it’s been a good week overall,” said McIlroy, who was once considered a threat to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major wins.
“I can’t be too despondent because of how this year’s went and 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.”
He added, “I’ll be okay. It’s not — 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.”
McIlroy will next tee it up in Memphis for the opening leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“Yeah, there always is after these weeks, especially when you’ve been in contention and, yeah, all of that sort of is happening,” said McIlroy. “I’ve got three weeks off. I’m not going to play again until the first playoff event in Memphis.
“I’ve got a bit of time to rest and recover and try to take the positives, learn from the negatives, and move on.
“I’m playing well. Again, it’s one of the best seasons I’ve had in a long time. I want to finish the season off well. I want to finish the season off right. There’s still some golf to play. Major season is over unfortunately, but I still feel like there’s a little bit to play for.”
In his first 24 major appearances, McIlroy won four in a 15-start span, but has come up empty in his last 30. The 150th Open Championship was absolutely his best shot to break the drought.
After winning his third major at the British Open in 2014, McIlroy was asked about catching Nicklaus‘ 18.
“I know how many majors the greats of the game have won, but I never wanted to compare myself,” said McIlroy. “At least at the end of my career there’s not going to be a disappointment — ‘Oh, I wanted to get to 15 but I only got 12.”
He added, with a tinge of smugness, “Bummer!”
With four majors at 25, including the two most recent, no one batted an eye when McIlroy lowballed 12 as his career majors target.
Eight years later, he’d be laughed off the stage for thinking he can win 12 career majors.
Ironically, following his fourth major at the PGA, and ahead of the FedEx Cup playoffs, McIlroy was asked about his position in the game versus Phil Mickelson, then 44, and Tiger Woods, then 38.
“They are just getting older,” said McIlroy. “Phil is 43 or something and Woods is nearly 40. So they are just getting into sort of the last few holes of their careers and that’s what happens. It obviously just gets harder as you get older.
“I’ll be able to tell you in 20 years how it feels.”
Since then, Mickelson (2021 PGA) and Woods (2019 Masters) have each won another major, while McIlroy, who will turn 34 next May, has been shutout.