Rory McIlroy left reeling as American underdog Wyndham Clark clinches US Open 8 months ago

Rory McIlroy left reeling as American underdog Wyndham Clark clinches US Open

"I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another major championship."

Before Sunday, Wyndham Clark's best ever major finish was tied 76th. He wakes up Monday morning as the US Open champion. For Rory McIlroy, the wait goes on.

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Clark produced a closing round of 70 to stay a nose ahead of McIlroy, while other challengers Rickie Fowler and Scottie Scheffler fell away early on the back nine.

Early in the day, Rory McIlroy had a long look at eagle. He went close before tapping it for birdie, and the co-lead. It felt like a good omen but that initial missed putt would become the trend:

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While Rory McIlroy was going close, but not close enough, with putts, Clark was streaking into a two-shot lead.

Just as he looked well set to stretch that lead even more, Clark found the greenside cabbage on the 7th hole. He got not get the ball out with his first swing, then overcompensated and flew over the green. He was looking at a potential double-bogey but showed great scrambling, and touch, to drop just one shot:

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14th hole sees Rory McIlroy challenge fade

Rory McIlroy had been driving the ball like a dream all week, and was putting the ball on just about every green.

On the par-five 14th, though, he dropped a 125-yard wedge approach into a greenside bunker. The ball was deemed to be plugged so McIroy got a huge break when the referee ruled he could have a free drop.

He could not make the break count, though, as he bogeyed the hole. Wyndham Clark doubled the blow by getting a birdie, after a stunning approach, to go three clear. In the end, the 14th hole would decide the championship, for both men.

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Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy gets a free drop on the 14th. (Credit: Sky Sports)

Rory McIlroy falls short

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Wyndham Clark did bogey the 15th and 16th holes but Rory McIlroy could not up the pressure any more. Try as he might, each approach was good but not good enough. Each putt either drifted left or right. Nothing was dropping.

Clark held his nerve on the last and hit a great lag putt to leave himself a one-footer to win his first major. In he dropped it and out came all the emotions he had bottled up. He later dedicated the victory to his late mother - "I felt like my mom was watching over me today. Of course, she can't be here today. Love you mom."

As for McIlroy, he seemed to know the end was coming, even before Clark reached the 18th green. Journalist Jason Sobel snapped this telling image of a bereft McIlroy as he trudged off, at the back of the 18th green. He has been right in contention at four of the last seven majors but still cannot add to his tally of four wins.

Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy (left) and Wyndham Clark (right)

Following his closing round of 70 - the same score he carded at St Andrew's when he came third at The Open, last year - Rory McIlroy told NBC that his struggles on the 14th, rather than a cold putter, cost him.

"As I said earlier in the week," he added, "I'll keep coming back here until I win another one of these things."

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