Rory McIlroy has finger of blame pointed as golf rival has ‘sympathy’ | Golf | Sport

Jon Rahm has come to Rory McIlroy’s defence and shone a light on the late US Open misses that left the LIV Golf star “absolutely burned”. The Northern Ireland ace missed two close-range putts in his final few holes at Pinehurst and allowed Bryson DeChambeau the chance to claim his second Major title as a result.

A devastated McIlroy was forced to watch on as a superb sand-save from his American rival dashed hopes that a playoff could rescue his chances. He left the course shortly after his misery was confirmed, declining media opportunities and is set to take a break from the sport.

But Rahm has defended McIlroy in the face of some stinging criticism. He believes that the difficulty of the 35-year-old’s costly putt on the 18th was “severely underplayed” in the media and he understood how McIlroy was not able to get over the line – while expressing his frustration at the wide reaction to the agonising near-miss.

“One of the things that absolutely burned me, and I think it was (NBC’s) Smylie (Kaufman) who said it, he severely underplayed how difficult Rory’s putt on 18 was,” Rahm said before a LIV Golf event in Nashville.

“When he said it’s a left-centre putt, if you hit that putt left-centre and miss the hole, you’re off the green because of how much slope there is. You could see Rory aiming at least a cup left from three feet. They severely underplayed how difficult that putt was. Severely.

“I think that can happen a few times where unless you’ve been there on the golf course and you’re playing it or you’ve played it, it’s hard to truly explain how difficult the golf course can be, and a lot of times they only have those five seconds to say something quickly, so I also don’t blame them.”

Rahm missed the tournament himself due to a foot infection, but refused to place the blame on McIlroy for his agonising misses, who is likely to return from his break at the Scottish Open next month.

Having recently filed for divorce from his wife Erica Stoll, before reversing the decision on the eve of the US Open, McIlroy is going through a turbulent time in his life and confirmed the need to momentarily step away from golf.

“I’m going to take a few weeks away from the game to process everything and build myself back up for my defense of the Genesis Scottish Open and The Open at Royal Troon,” he wrote on social media.

“Yesterday was a tough day, probably the toughest I’ve had in my nearly 17 years as a professional golfer. Firstly, I’d like to congratulate Bryson. He is a worthy champion and exactly what professional golf needs right now. I think we can all agree on that.

“As I reflect on my week, I’ll rue a few things over the course of the tournament, mostly the 2 missed putts on 16 and 18 on the final day. But, as I always try to do, I’ll look at the positives of the week that far outweigh the negatives.”

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