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Rory McIlroy has wedding ring back on finger and fire back in his heart after US Open agony

Rory McIlroy has wedding ring back on finger and fire back in his heart after US Open agony
Rory McIlroy was speaking ahead of the Scottish Open where he will get his title defence under way on Thursday - PA/Malcolm Mackenzie

The ring is back on his finger and the competitive fire has returned to his heart. Rory McIlroy has finished “stewing over” his extraordinary US Open meltdown and has told his doubters he will show the defiance and resilience that he believes has defined his career.

McIlroy plays as defending champion in Thursday’s first round of the Scottish Open and on Wednesday faced the press for the first time since bogeying three of the last four holes to hand the US Open to Bryson DeChambeau.

Inevitably there were a few questions to answer before he could talk promisingly about the future, starting at the Renaissance Club this week and then at the Open next week at Royal Troon.

While McIlroy was typically honest about the two short putts that ultimately cost him his first major title in a decade – he acknowledged he felt nerves as he stood over the tiddler on the 16th and was then frightened of three-putting the 18th from three feet – he was just as characteristically loyal when it came to caddie Harry Diamond.

McIlroy’s childhood friend predictably came under attack in some quarters for his contribution on the fnal few holes, and particularly for his supposed failure to talk his fellow Ulsterman out of the seven-iron on the par-three 15th that started the rot. Hank Haney, Tiger Woods’s former coach, pointed the finger of blame at bagman Diamond, as did former Tour winners Smylie Kaufman and Eddie Pepperell.

“It’s unfair,” McIlroy said. “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. I just wish that these guys who criticise when things don’t go my way, would say something good when things do go my way.

“Someone asked me once if you would ever take advice from these people. 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.”

Harry Diamond and Rory McIlroy - Rory McIlroy has wedding ring back on finger and fire back in his heart after US Open agony
McIlroy has backed his caddie Harry Diamond (left) who was criticised by Smylie Kaufman and Eddie Pepperell. - Getty Images/Harry How

McIlroy has resisted the calls for him to change up his staff and, instead, has tried to take the positives from the brutal experience in which, at times, he seemed destined to finally land his fifth major and so end the tortuous wait. “I analysed what happened calmly and rationally,” McIlroy said. However he admitted there were “a few rough days”.

“I stewed on what happened at Pinehurst when I was in New York [immediately after the US Open], but then, thankfully, I could go home and look at what I’ve achieved in the game and sort of feel OK about myself,” he added.

“It was a great opportunity. It passed me by but hopefully when I get that next opportunity, it won’t. Troon is just another opportunity. I’m playing great golf and it’s another chance to see how I can hopefully handle it better than I handled it a few weeks ago.

“The way I now look at Pinehurst is that Sunday was a great day until it wasn’t. I did things on that Sunday that I haven’t been able to do the last couple of years, took control of the tournament, held putts when I needed to – well, mostly – made birdies and really got myself in there. And as you get further away from it happening you start to see the positives and all the good things you did throughout the week.”

McIlroy denied it was his lowest ebb after a golf event. “Yeah, it has been a while since I’ve won a major but I have felt worse after some other losses,” he said. “I felt worse after Augusta in 2011 and I felt worse after St Andrews in 2022. So this was up there with the tough losses but not the toughest.

“I’ll look back on that day [at Pinehurst] just like I look back on some of the toughest moments in my career and I’ll learn a lot from it and hopefully put that to good use. It’s something that’s been a bit of a theme throughout my career [most notably when shooting the 2011 US Open two months after throwing away a four-shot final-round lead at The Masters]. I’ve been able to take those tough moments and turn them into great things not very long after.”

It was a torrid month or so for McIlroy off the course, as well. The 35-year-old filed for divorce in May, but then withdrew the court papers four weeks’ later. Erica, his wife of seven years and mother to their three-year-old daughter Poppy, has accompanied him across the pond for this fortnight and her husband is again wearing the wedding band.

McIlroy spoke of the importance of those close to him after the US Open heartache. “I feel like I’ve really surrounded myself with really good people and sometimes you take that [support for] granted and don’t feel like you really need it all the time,” he said. “But in tough moments like after the Sunday at Pinehurst, it makes you really appreciate that you do.”