On Sunday, Rory McIlroy gave Chambers Bay a glimpse of what got him to No. 1 in the world rankings coming into this U.S. Open.
It simply didn’t last.
McIlroy began the day as an afterthought. He birdied the second, seventh and eighth holes. Then 10 and 12. He followed with a 72-foot birdie putt on No. 13, continuing a run befitting a 26-year-old four-time major champion at 6 under par for the round.
A bogey on No. 15 deflated it. A three-putt for bogey on 17 ended it.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy finished his final round at 4-under 66 to bring him to even-par 280 for the tournament.
“The last few holes of this golf course haven’t been kind to me all week,” McIlroy said. “And when I look back at this tournament, that’s where I’ll rue some missed opportunities. I feel like it’s sort of one that got away.”
While Tiger Woods missed the cut and Phil Mickelson dropped to 13-over 293, McIlroy’s run demonstrated why he’s still a good bet to win any tournament.
“I don’t think I’ve ever hit the ball as well in a major championship,” McIlroy said.
“I really thought when I held that long putt on 13, I had 16 and 18 coming in. If I could post 4-under par, birdie those two holes coming in, then I thought I had a great chance. Really, really did.”
So did his following.
Even after his bogey on No. 15, crowds lined up in rows four deep along the ropes, with two more rows on a mound behind. A loud “ahhh” bellowed from the crowd when McIlroy left his approach 24 feet short of the hole and down a slope. He smacked his club against the ground.
McIlroy left his ensuing birdie putt a foot short and wiped his hand down his face in disbelief.
Then the three-putt on No. 17. He putted from 42 feet to within six for a par putt.
Then McIlroy missed that.
McIlroy received an ovation walking past the Chambers Basement bunker on the 18th hole and waved in acknowledgment.
When he tapped in from two feet for par, he removed his hat and walked off the course after demonstrating a final-round performance befitting one of golf’s most recognizable faces.
KELLY FINISHES STRONG
Sunday could not have been much better for Lakewood’s Troy Kelly.
Kelly went 1-over his last 36 holes — including a 69 in the final round. Kelly finished at 6-over 286.
“The whole experience was amazing,” Kelly said. “Obviously the last two days have been fun for me, because I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to play.”
It was a special week for the Central Kitsap High School and University of Washington product, who had his brother, Ryan, on the bag — and his father, Bob, following him around.
“I was fighting back emotions,” Ryan said. “He is my younger brother.”
Cheng-Tsung Pan felt relief. Four grueling rounds at Chambers Bay had finally finished.
And also because he finally made his first check — totaling about $23,800 after tying for 64th.
“I might go out and have a good dinner and spend time with my family and girlfriend,” said the UW graduate, who was playing in his first tournament as a pro.
Pan was at 13 over (the same as Phil Mickelson) when he finished Sunday. His former UW men’s golf coach, Matt Thurmond, was his caddie.
“I hope Pan and I have a long friendship,” Thurmond said. “He is going to go on to do great things, and he knows he’s always got a friend in me. It was just fun to share his pro debut.”
3 GOOD, 1 BAD
Louis Oosthuizen tore up it up for three days, closing out with rounds of 66, 66 and 67.
It was a first-round 77 playing with Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler, both of whom missed the cut, that created too big of a hole for the 32-year-old South African to dig out of.
“I think after my start the first round, I’m very happy with where I am now,” he said with the silver medal hanging from his neck.
Oosthuizen, winner of the 2012 Masters, finished by getting a birdie on six of the final seven holes. He was tied for the lead with Spieth when he walked off the course. But Spieth birdied the 18th hole moments later.
“I felt very relaxed. I felt very eager to get to the next hole and get some birdies coming,” Oosthuizen said. “I wasn’t nervous at all. I’ll take a lot of this week, especially the last three days.”
EAGLES HAVE LANDED
Eagles are common in the skies in the Puget Sound. And, apparently, a common score at the U.S. Open.
Golfers carded 36 eagles at Chambers Bay to shatter the previous U.S. Open record of 31 set in 1992 at Pebble Beach. And there were 26 made on No. 12, breaking the U.S. Open record for most eagles recorded at a single hole.
Staff writers Todd Milles and Craig Hill contributed to this report