McILROY FADES IN FINAL ROUND OF BRITISH OPEN

RORY McIlroy’s eight year wait for a major title will go on despite a valiant effort at St Andrews which saw him finish in third place. The Holywood man’s last major victory came in Valhalla in 2014 and he was desperate to end his title drought and complete a career grand slam at The Old Course. McIlroy ended play with a two under 70 on Sunday, placing him behind American Cameron Young and eventual champion Cameron Smith, who claimed his first major tournament victory. It will be a tough loss to take for McIlroy, who held a joint overnight lead of four shots going into the final day at St Andrews. He will look back on seven missed birdie putts on his final round and admitted afterwards that his putting had let him down. The crucial moment came on the 17th hole, with McIlroy needing back-to-back birdies to take the championship into a playoff, he failed to make the birdie putt from fewer than 20 feet. McIlroy was the first to admit it was a frustrating day. ‘I felt like I didn’t do much wrong but I didn’t do much right either. I’ll rue a few putts that slid by – good putts, but they just weren’t dropping.’ Despite McIlroy’s disappointment, he admitted he was beaten by a worthy winner in Cameron Smith, who became the first Australian to win an Open Championship since Greg Norman in 1993. ‘I got beaten by a better player this week. It’s not life or death. The putter just went a little cold,” he said. Smith, with his distinctive mullet hairstyle, was in magnificent form, finishing with an eight-under-par 64, with five birdies in a row from the 10th hole. His 20 under par total beats The Open record set by Tiger Woods in 2000. McIlroy was in a reflective mood following his third-place finish. ‘I’m only human. My hotel room is directly opposite the big yellow board on 18 and every time I go out, I’m trying to envision McIlroy as the top name on that leaderboard. “I did a really good job this week of really trying to control what I could control. I certainly appreciated the support and it was incredible to be cheered along all 72 holes, but I didn’t let that put me under any more pressure. “You’ve got to let yourself dream. I would have been the happiest person in the world if I won that claret jug.’ Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said it is very hard to be critical of McIlroy. “He didn’t do a whole lot wrong, but to win Open Championships with guys in the rear-view mirror needs quality and with the street fighter Cameron Smith is, you’ve got to go and grab it by the scruff of the neck. ‘I don’t think it’s time to be critical of McIlroy, we should commend Smith here, but of course, he’s going to think he left something on the table.’ For McIlroy, the pain of defeat will linger, but he can take solace in the fact that his form has been excellent this year, with all four major finishes coming inside the top 10 and three coming inside the top five.