[PHOTO: Sean M. Haffey]

Rory McIlroy had his fifth major championship all but secured as he stood on the 15th tee at Pinehurst No. 2. Had he simply played the final four holes in one-over-par, he would have come back from three strokes to beat Bryson DeChambeau, who had been shaky, especially off the tee, throughout the final round. His tee shot at the par 3 was headed towards the centre of the green. He could taste it.

Then, chaos ensued.

The Northern Irishman’s 7-iron bounded over the 15th green and put him in a spot where many rounds went to die this week at the 124th United States Open. A gutsy bogey followed. He was still firmly alive. Another bogey at 16, and perhaps the most painful bogey of his career at the 18th, all but killed his chances.

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Even still, at five-under, he watched as DeChambeau got into a spot of bother left of the 18th fairway. After DeChambeau’s second found a bunker in front of the 18th green, setting up one of the toughest shots in golf – the 50-metre bunker shot – McIlroy suddenly had life again. DeChambeau then proceeded to rip his heart out with the shot of his life, putting his third to four feet and securing his second US Open title with a par.

In McIlroy’s defence, it was an absolutely gutting watch. Still, though, as the second-place finisher and a guy who has often had no issue congratulating his peers after a victory, you would have figured McIlroy would have stuck around. The media certainly would have had a few questions. In 2022, after another painful loss to Cameron Smith at the Open Championship, McIlroy was on NBC soon after coming up short, answering every question he was asked as the runner-up.

But this one proved too hard to handle for the four-time major champion. A number of reporters were on the scene in the Pinehurst carpark to watch McIlroy make a swift exit in his courtesy car:

Brutal. Here was McIlroy watching DeChambeau hang on to win, an equally painful video to watch:

As of now, McIlroy is in the field for this week’s Travelers Championship. Judging by this early exit, though, it would come as a bit of a surprise to see him show up in Connecticut, and it would also be hard to blame him if he didn’t.