"When I do finally win this next major, it's going to be really, really sweet" - Rory McIlroy
The man himself feels it much more keenly than any of us ever will.
As he played himself into US Open contention, over the first three days at L.A Country Country, Rory McIlroy spoke about watching old majors footage of himself to reconnect with that winning feeling.
Ahead of his final round, on Sunday, we wish he had looked at highlights of his opening two rounds (of 65 and 67). Course officials made the 18 holes a sterner test but McIlroy went into a his shell, played safe and sensible golf then could not go up through the gears over the final three holes. It was eerily reminiscent to how his final round at The Open, in St Andrew's, played out, last July.
On that day, McIlroy reduced the risks, got himself safely onto as many greens possible and gave him long looks at birdies. When Cameron Smith went on a birdie streak, he could not answer back and carded a 70.
On Sunday, McIlroy reduced the risks, got himself safely onto as many greens possible and gave him long looks at birdies. He was pinging greens in regulation but did not make a single putt over five-feet in length. He birdied the first hole and that was it. He played really well but could not find the magic, late on. He carded a 70.
Asked if it was "exhausting" to keep having to learn lessons from close calls in majors, the 34-year-old replied:
"It is, but at the same time, when I do finally win this next major, it's going to be really, really sweet. I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another major championship."
On the No Laying Up podcast, Kevin Van Valkenburg spoke of a moment between McIlroy and his manager, Sean O'Flaherty before he faced the media microphones and before he went into the scoring tent.
"He leaned over to Sean, his manager," said Van Valkenburg, "and said, 'St Andrew's all over again'...
"Definitely, he felt the sting of not being able to putt well enough. The phrase he used in the presser was, 'I didn't play poorly but I didn't do enough'."
McIlroy knew. We all knew. The fact that he vocalised what most of us were thinking shows how much those two major runs will haunt him.
Rory McIlroy opens up on St Andrew's comparison
Rory McIlroy is a four-time major winner but without a biggie since 2014. He has now been very close in four of the past seven majors.
You get the sense, and anyone that follows him closely will surely agree, that if he gets number five, there will be a six and a seven. Maybe even an eight. Phil Mickelson was 33 before he finally clinched a major. McIlroy has more in him but he is developing considerable scar tissue.
"The last real two chances I've had at majors I feel like have been pretty similar performances, like St Andrews last year and then here," he told reporters.
"Not doing a lot wrong, but I didn't make a birdie since the first hole today. Just trying to be a little more, I guess, efficient with my opportunities and my looks."
"Again, overall when you're in contention going into the final round of a U.S. Open, I played the way I wanted to play," he added. "There was just a couple of shots, two or three shots over the course of the round that I'd like to have back."
Honest to a fault, as he so often is, McIlroy admitted that he did not linger near a TV screen for too long when Wyndham Clark - a worthy winner - stood over his tap-in par to win.
"You don't want to wish bad on anyone, but you're really hoping for a three-putt," McIlroy said. "You're hoping to somehow get into a playoff to keep giving yourself a chance.
"You're rooting for one guy, and that guy is yourself at that point. Yeah, I guess you're just hoping for the other guy to slip up or make a mistake or give you a glimmer of hope. Wyndham was pretty much rock solid all day, and that was a great two-putt at the last."
Up next, in mid July, is The Open at Hoylake, in Liverpool. McIlroy had his last major win there.
He will be one of the favourites, again, and his undoubted skills will put him in the mix.
We have not given up hope, nor have so many others, but last night hurt. For McIlroy, it hurts times a thousand.
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