Heartbroken Rory McIlroy praises Cameron Smith's 'unbelievable week'

Rory Mcilroy St Andrews 2022

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 a showing. You know, hat's off to Cam. He's had an unbelievable week."

Asked about takeaways from a week that must hurt, McIlroy's class came through. 

"It's just... I know that I can do it. I love this golf course. I play well here. The last two Opens I've played here I've finished third both times. It's coming. This whole major season, second at Augusta, third here, fifth at the US Open, eighth at the PGA. I just need to keep moving forward, stay patient and keep knocking on the door and maybe one will open for me."

McIlroy has now had 17 top-10 finishes in majors since his last major victory in 2014, the most of any player.

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