For Rory McIlroy, the 2024 U.S. Open is the 2011 Masters all over again

With five holes to go, it seemed as if the drought was going to end.

Rory McIlroy had birdied four of his last five holes riding a hot putter at the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. With five holes to go, he had a two-shot lead on Bryson DeChambeau, who came into the final round with a three-shot lead.

That’s when it all went south.

McIlroy’s putter went cold. Bogeys started adding up. He went backward. DeChambeau stood tough.

DeChambeau won his second U.S. Open title Sunday, finishing at 6 under to beat McIlroy by one shot. On the final hole, DeChambeau hit his drive left, pitched out into trouble and had a 54-yard bunker shot for his third shot, needing to get up-and-down for the win. He blasted close to secure the title, a gritty performance on a day he didn’t have his best stuff, especially off the tee.

However, for as much as DeChambeau won the 2024 U.S. Open, McIlroy lost it. For him, it was the 2011 Masters all over again.

The then 21-year-old star started the day with a four-shot lead at Augusta National. At the turn, the lead was one. On the 11th tee following a triple bogey, he was in seventh. A bogey and a double on the ensuing holes, he was out of the tournament, eventually finishing 10 shots behind winner Charl Schwartzel.

At the time, a young McIlroy was inexperienced in the majors, and once the slide began, there was no stopping it. But that was 13 years ago.

Sunday at Pinehurst was supposed to be different. It wasn’t.

As DeChambeau rose to the occasion down the stretch, McIlroy wilted. He scrambled for par after a pulled tee shot on the par-4 14th. On the 15th, he made his third bogey in as many days when his approach bounced long and he had to just hack to get the ball on the green.

Then on the 16th, he missed his first putt all year from inside 3 feet, lipping out from 2 feet, 6 inches. He hit his approach on the par-5 17th into a bunker but got up and down (for only the third time in nine tries from the sand all week) for par.

On 18 his pulled tee shot landed in the native area, just short of a clump of wire grass. He tried to blast the ball through the shrubbery, but his approach didn’t reach the green. Still, he had a chance to get up and down.

After a solid chip, his par putt was 3 feet, 9 inches long. And he missed again. Three bogeys in his final four holes.

It has been nearly 10 years since McIlroy won his fourth major, the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla. This was his best chance to win one since. But when his lead became two, the pressure ramped up and he melted.

It’s strange to see from McIlroy. He has been a constant presence at the majors, especially the U.S. Open, in recent years. But there’s a monkey he hasn’t been able to get off his back to win another major. That pressure showed most on the greens down the stretch.

He made more than 100 feet of putts in his first 13 holes Sunday. Then the putter went cold. If McIlroy makes just one of his par putts on 16 or 18, he gets into a playoff. If he makes both, he’s hoisting the trophy.

Instead, McIlroy goes home with likely the biggest pit in his stomach since 2011. He declined interview requests after his round Sunday. Cameras caught him leaving the property within 30 minutes of his bogey putt dropping on 18.

Where does McIlroy go from here?

In 2011, he responded in a big way. He won his first major, the 2011 U.S. Open, by eight shots, setting 11 records that week at Congressional. He went on to win the 2012 PGA and then consecutive majors at the 2014 Open Championship and 2014 PGA Championship.

The last major of 2024, the Open Championship, is at Royal Troon, where he finished T-5 in 2016. He also has a title to defend the week at the Scottish Open.

The question grows larger every year: Can Rory McIlroy win another major?

He recovered quickly after the loss in the 2011 Masters. Perhaps he can do so again. Only time will tell.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek