McIlroy to 'keep knocking on the door' after falling short of long-awaited fifth major

Northern Irishman co-led heading into the final round at St Andrews but had to settle for third

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A "disappointed" Rory McIlroy was gracious in defeat by praising Cameron Smith's record breaking performance to win the Open Championship on Sunday as the Northern Irishman's agonising wait for another major title continued.

McIlroy, 33, began the day in a tie for the lead alongside Norway's Viktor Hovland and was two shots ahead at the turn, but a bogey-free closing 70 proved insufficient to end his eight-year drought in the game’s biggest tournaments.

Smith fired eight birdies – including five in a row from the 10th – to card his second 64 of the week and finish 20-under par, beating the previous best of 19-under on the Old Course set by Tiger Woods in 2000. McIlroy would ultimately place third, also behind Smith's playing partner Cameron Young, who shot a final round 65 to finish on 19-under.

“[I’m] disappointed obviously,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I didn’t do much wrong today, but I didn’t do much right either. It’s just one of those days where I played a really controlled round of golf. I did what I felt like I needed to just apart from [not] capitalising on the easier holes around the turn, nine, 12, 14.

“If I had made the birdies there from good positions, it probably would have been a different story. But, look, I got beaten by a better player this week; 20 under par for four rounds of golf around here is really, really impressive playing, especially to go out and shoot 64 today to get it done."

Understandably disappointed at the final outcome, but it was another fine showing at a major this year for McIlroy, who placed second at the Masters, eighth at the PGA Championship, and tied fifth at the US Open.

“I’ll rue a few missed putts that slid by, but it’s been a good week overall. I can’t be too despondent because of how this year’s going," said four-time major champion McIlroy, who has not won one of the big titles since 2014.

“I’m playing some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. So it’s just a matter of keep knocking on the door, and eventually one will open.

Cam Smith wins the Open

“I’ll be OK. At the end of the day, it’s not life or death. I’ll have other chances to win the Open Championship and other chances to win majors. It’s one that I feel like I let slip away, but there will be other opportunities.

“I’ve just got to keep putting myself in position, keep putting myself in there. And whenever you put yourself in that shining light, you’re going to have to deal with setbacks and deal with failures.

“Today is one of those times. But I just have to dust myself off and come again and keep working hard and keep believing.”

World No 9 Hovland insisted his week at St Andrews had been a great learning experience despite falling out of contention for the Claret Jug on the final day.

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - JULY 17: Viktor Hovland of Norway reacts during Day Four of The 150th Open at St Andrews Old Course on July 17, 2022 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Warren Little / Getty Images)

Hovland, 24, is regarded as one of the finest young talents in golf but it was the first time he had contended for a major title. However, he never gained any momentum and a two-over round of 74 dropped him into a tie for fourth place, six shots behind Smith.

The Norwegian did not make his first birdie until the 12th hole – and that was only to get back to his starting score – but dropped two shots coming home.

“Yeah, it was a little anti-climactic after the day yesterday [when he also played with McIlroy and they both shot 66],” said Hovland, who registered his first top-10 finish in his 12th major.

“I was expecting I was going to hang in there for a little bit longer, [but I] just didn’t have it today. I didn’t hit it very good and didn’t putt as good as yesterday, so it was a frustrating day.

“But it was a great experience today and obviously yesterday as well. Just the whole week was a good learning experience and I feel like I’m going to get better from it.”

Updated: July 18, 2022, 4:57 AM