Rory McIlroy takes pot shot at ‘unfair’ critics of late collapse at US Open

<span>‘I look back on some of my toughest moments in my career and learn a lot from it. Hopefully I’ll put that to good use,’ says Rory McIlroy.</span><span>Photograph: Malcolm Mackenzie/PA</span>
‘I look back on some of my toughest moments in my career and learn a lot from it. Hopefully I’ll put that to good use,’ says Rory McIlroy.Photograph: Malcolm Mackenzie/PA

Rory McIlroy has hit back at critics of his own and his caddie’s US Open performance, after the Northern Irishman saw the trophy slip from his grasp in painful fashion at Pinehurst.

Hank Haney – a former coach of Tiger Woods – and the television analyst Smylie Kaufman – a former PGA Tour player – both offered a negative appraisal of McIlroy’s approach. Harry Diamond, McIlroy’s caddie, was also in the line of fire after McIlroy bogeyed three of his last four holes.

Speaking for the first time since Bryson DeChambeau pipped McIlroy to the third major of the year, the 35-year-old was dismissive of “unfair” comment towards Diamond in particular. “Hank Haney has never been in that position,” McIlroy said. “Smylie has been in that position once. I love Smylie and he was out there with us on 18 [when McIlroy missed a decisive putt]. But just because Harry is not as vocal or loud with his words as other caddies, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t say anything and that he doesn’t do anything.

“These guys that criticise when things don’t go my way, they never say anything good when things do go my way. So where were they when I won Dubai earlier this year or Quail Hollow or the two FedExCups that I’ve won with Harry or the two Ryder Cups or whatever? They are never there to say Harry did such a great job when I win but they are always there to criticise when we don’t win.

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“They are not there. They are not the ones hitting the shots and making the decisions. Someone said to me once: ‘If you would never take advice from these people, you would never take their criticisms either.’ I certainly wouldn’t go to Hank Haney for advice. I love Smylie, but I think I know what I’m doing and so does Harry.”

McIlroy spent a few post-US Open days in Manhattan, which seemed to have served as a head-clearing exercise. He won the last of his four majors in August 2014 but none of his attempts for a fifth have been lost in such dramatic style.

“Just like I look back on some of my toughest moments in my career, I’ll learn a lot from it and I’ll hopefully put that to good use,” McIlroy added. “It’s something that’s been a bit of a theme throughout my career. I’ve been able to take those tough moments and turn them into great things not very long after that.

“I still think about the short missed putt that I missed at Crans-sur-Sierre in 2008 in a playoff. I was probably more devastated after that because it was my rookie year on tour; I hadn’t won yet. I remember feeling really bad after that for a week.

“I stewed on what happened at Pinehurst for a couple of days but thankfully I can go home and look at what I’ve achieved in the game and sort of feel OK about myself. Look, it was a great opportunity. It passed me by but hopefully when I get that next opportunity, it won’t pass me by.”

McIlroy has pinpointed where he thinks things fell apart at Pinehurst. He believes, for example, he paid too much attention to DeChambeau over the closing stretch. “Maybe I was a little too aware of where Bryson was and what he was doing,” McIlroy explained. “After the 14th tee, you’re sort of looking at the 13th green and then I had to wait on my tee shot on 15 before he hit his second shot into 14. Just the way the course flowed, it just made me very aware of what he was doing at the same time. So it sort of got me out of my own little world a little bit.”

The Open takes place at Royal Troon next week. “It’s just another opportunity,” McIlroy said. “I’m playing great golf and it’s another opportunity to see how I can hopefully handle it better than I handled it a few weeks ago.”

First, a Scottish Open defence in East Lothian.