Bryson DeChambeau wins thrilling US Open battle as Rory McIlroy falls short

bryson dechambeau wins thrilling us open battle as rory mcilroy falls short

Bryson DeChambeau celebrates after sealing his second US Open title in dramatic fashion. Photograph: Mike Stewart/AP

Bryson DeChambeau is a US Open champion for a second time after beating Rory McIlroy by one shot and prolonging the Northern ­Irishman’s decade-long wait for a fifth major title by at least another month in the most agonising fashion at Pinehurst No 2.

The 30-year-old American, one of only a dozen players from the rebel LIV Golf series in the 156-player field, frittered away a three-shot overnight lead before rallying from two strokes down on a dramatic back nine, ­holding his nerve in a contest of extreme psychological intensity that will leave McIlroy ruing a series of unforced errors in the final reel.

McIlroy missed two straightforward putts over the last three holes, including for par from less than four feet on the 72nd, that left ­DeChambeau needing only par for the title. The 2020 champion caught a tree root with his drive and sent a ­second shot into a bunker way short of the green, but chopped his third shot to within four feet, where he rolled it home before jumping around the green in jubilation.

The 2020 champion signed for a one-over 71 to finish six-under for the week and one better than ­McIlroy in the 124th playing of America’s national championship that surely will rank among its most unforgettable. He became only the fifth player since the second world war to win the US Open more than once aged 30 or younger, ­joining a roll of honour including Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka.

It didn’t take long for this heavyweight showdown between two of the sport’s biggest stars and most compelling personalities to catch fire. McIlory wasted no time closing the gap by holing from 20ft for birdie on the first before DeChambeau even took the course, a statement of intent that hinted at the battle ahead.

The tightly packed cluster of names below DeChambeau and ­McIlroy quickly thinned, setting the stage for a two-way duel. Ludvig Aberg, the US Open debutant who led after 36 holes, made triple-bogey on the 2nd hole to effectively remove himself from contention. Matthieu Pavon’s birdie on the 3rd couldn’t cancel out bogeys on the 1st and 4th. Hideki Matsuyama opened with eight successive pars but dropped back a shot with a bogey on the 9th.

DeChambeau overcame early adversity and a series of bad breaks, saving pars from drives that landed in a fairway divot on the 1st and a bunker on the 2nd. His lead shrunk to one after a bogey on the 4th, but McIlroy gave it right back moments later when he was fortunate to save bogey after what appeared to be a highlight-reel approach wedge shot rolled all the way down the hill and in the native sandy area.

The American spent the week trading his familiar bomb-and-gouge style for a more patient, conservative golf he described as “boring”, but old habits die hard and he began to break that pledge starting on the 7th, when he daringly hit a driver off the 7th tee.

By the time McIlroy canned a 15-footer for birdie on the 9th to go into sole possession of ­second at five‑under and one shot off ­DeChambeau’s lead, the cloud cover that had offered refuge from the 90F (32C) temperatures broke and the leaders pressed on amid conditions more similar. Moments later DeChambeau – forced to back off a shot until the nearby chants of “Ro-ry! Ro-ry!” subsided – rolled in a long putt to keep hold of the outright lead, punctuating a miraculous up-and-down from the natural area with a swinging fist-pump amid deafening roars.

It wasn’t hard to imagine NBC’s executives and the USGA brass salivating from some climate-controlled outpost: a Rory-Bryson duel on Sunday afternoon down the back nine of the US Open on one of America’s most venerable courses. A heavyweight slugfest between the sport’s two most compelling personalities, divided by professional golf’s civil war but united in competition with a brutally difficult Pinehurst No 2 course that had left dozens of the world’s best to fly the white flag. The pars felt like birdies and birdies felt like eagles on a backed-out back nine with every shot from hole to tee freighted with heart-pounding tension. The 15 scores under par after Thursday’s first round was down to six.

McIlroy finally went level with DeChambeau rolling in his longest putt of the week from 27 feet for a second successive birdie on the 10th.

Moments after DeChambeau converted a dramatic par save, McIlroy rolled in another hairy putt to go seven-under and back into a tie for the lead. McIlroy’s third birdie in four holes set off even more rollocking chants. DeChambeau nosed ahead on the 10th, hitting an excellent pitch close after a badly struck fairway shot and depositng for birdie, stopping between holes to sign an autograph for a fan.

McIlroy could hear those as he lined up a birdie putt on the 11th green, but missed by inches to remain one off the pace. It wasn’t over yet. Right as McIlroy’s legion supporters were ready to exhale, he sent a drive off the 13th tee sailing into the pine straw right of the fairway. As he took his time ­cleaning up a drive into the natural area, DeChambeau narrowly missed an eagle putt on 13 before cleaning up for birdie to get within a shot of the lead. When McIlroy dropped a shot on the 16th, the ­leaders were all square at seven-under.

What appeared to be a decisive moment came on the 15th green. Moments after missing a putt to retake the lead, DeChambeau missed a tiddler to fall one stroke behind. But McIlroy missed a gimme on the 16th, falling back into tie at six-under with two holes to play.

McIlroy hit a driver into the scrub on the 72nd hole before chipped-and-ran to within three feet. That left him with a 4ft putt to stay in touch with the lead, but a second miss over the last three holes all but handed the title to DeChambeau, who needed par from a sketchy lie to close the show. While McIlroy calmly gnawed at a Powerbar in the scoring area, DeChambeau sent it within four of the pin. The result was a handshake away.

DeChambeau’s win extends a run of dominance by Americans at golf’s four bedrock tournaments not seen in nearly five decades. Six different US players have won each of the past six majors, starting with Brooks Koepka at the US PGA Championship last year, Wyndham Clark at last year’s US Open, Brian Harman at the Open, Scottie Scheffler at Augusta and Xander Schauffele last month at Valhalla. That represents the longest run of American winners since a parade of Americans led by Nicklaus, Trevino, Irwin, Walson rattled off 13 in a row from 1974 through 1977.

One year ago when he finished runner-up at the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club, McIlroy said: “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.”

After the cruelest of near-misses in the North Carolina sand hills, the wait for another major title will continue.

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