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Rory McIlroy's drought continues at the US Open: What went wrong and will he ever win another major?

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Rory McIlroy’s pre-tournament prediction that he was “closer than ever” to ending his major drought came true at the US Open, although it still wasn’t enough to claim the elusive victory.

McIlroy stood on the 14th tee at Pinehurst No 2 on Sunday two shots ahead of overnight leader Bryson DeChambeau and in prime position to win a first major title in 3,598 days, only to leave the course less than 90 minutes later having let victory slip through his grasp.

The Northern Irishman failed to get up and down from off the green to save par at the par-three 15th and then inexplicably missed from inside three feet at the next, the first putt in 497 attempts he has missed from that distance all season, with back-to-back bogeys dropping him back tied for the lead.

McIlroy hit an errant drive off the final tee and failed to convert his par putt from less than four feet, dropping him back to five under and leaving him watching on in disbelief as DeChambeau snatched victory in dramatic fashion.

The latest major near-miss is McIlroy's second successive runner-up finish at the US Open and part of a run of six consecutive top-10s at the event without success, with the former world No 1 still searching for a fifth major victory and first since the 2014 PGA Championship.

None of McIlroy's 21 top-10s in majors since that one-shot win at Valhalla have been closer to a return to the winner's circle than this latest effort, which leaves him stuck on the total of four majors he has been stranded on for the past decade.

A visibly upset McIlroy declined to speak to the media post-round and had already left the property before DeChambeau had lifted the US Open trophy for a second time, with the latest heartbreak only raising further doubts on when - or if - he will claim another major title.

Six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo feared that the latest major disappointment could "haunt Rory for the rest of his life", with McIlroy's hopes destroyed after three bogeys in the last four holes of his final-round.

"Nobody's had more pressure on him over the last 10 years," McIlroy's putting coach Brad Faxon said on Golf Channel. "Everybody in the world knows he hasn't won a major since 2014. I think it's the way this happened; the short missed putts there on 16, certainly on 18. I don't know how you get through this thing. It's really tough."

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley added: "That element of doubt came in. He started backing away, which he never does. He took a little more time over the putts, which he never does. That's pressure and he succumbed to it.

"(It's) a devastating loss for any player, not just Rory. It's absolutely devastating. Rory has faltered coming down the stretch."

McIlroy's runner-up finish in North Carolina follows him finishing second to Wyndham Clark in Los Angeles 12 months earlier, with the 35-year-old also taking a share of the lead into the final day of The Open in 2022 before finishing third at St Andrews.

"He has had chances to win three majors in the last two years and he hasn't lost them because his swing deserted him at the wrong time," McGinley told Golf Channel. "He lost them because his putting went slow and because when he had opportunities, he didn't seize the initiative.

"Last year at the US Open, he came back in one over par. You saw him at Quail Hollow [Wells Fargo Championship] and he just takes the opportunity, seizes it, and runs off into the distance and kills the opposition and wins.

"He knows how to do it and there is enough golf game there to kill the opposition and win tournaments. The difference in major championships is when the initiative is presented to him, he doesn't run off."

McIlroy used a seven-iron into the par-three 15th and went long of the green, resulting in the bogey, before three-putting the 16th and having to scramble a par from the sand at the 17th ahead of the final-hole drama.

The 2011 US Open champion then hit driver off the 18th, having used three-wood the previous day, which ran into a bad lie in thick grass and saw him missing the green in regulation. He hit a well-judged chip from short of the green but then failed to convert the putt to keep his share of the lead.

"It wasn't bad golf, he missed a few putts - and that will be a bitter pill for him to swallow," four-time major winner Dame Laura Davies said. "He probably hit the wrong club into 15, that started the problems. The miss at 16 was inexplicable, then the one at 18 I don't think was necessarily a bad putt.

"He'll be remembered for the two putts, but he played some unbelievable golf to get to four under at one stage. He can take heart from the fact he put himself into position again."

Coltart added: "Wayne Riley called it spot on again about why was he hitting driver off the tee at the last. It's the most important shot and potentially career-changing, but he had to find the fairway.

"There was only 13 bogeys on that hole all day, so it wasn't the hardest hole if he found the fairway. For some reason he wanted to take driver, he obviously felt like that gave him the best opportunity and the rest is history."

McIlroy has already won three times this season - on the DP World Tour at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic before back-to-back PGA Tour titles at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Wells Fargo Championship - and is back above Xander Schauffele as world No 2.

When McIlroy squandered a four-shot lead on the final day of The Masters in 2011, he bounced back in impressive fashion - in his next major start - to claim a wire-to-wire victory at the US Open and a maiden major title.

McIlroy will hope for similar resolve next month when he heads to The Open at Royal Troon, a venue he claimed tied-fifth in 2016 and a major he has finished no worse than sixth in six of his last eight appearances.

Victory would smash the previous longest wait between fourth and fifth major titles, currently held by Peter Thomson at seven years, although failure to do so would extend McIlroy's major drought into another season.

McIlroy will have another chance to complete the career Grand Slam next April at The Masters, while the 2025 PGA Championship is held at Quail Hollow - a venue where he claimed his maiden PGA Tour title and is a four-time winner of the Wells Fargo Championship.

The US Open returns to Oakmont for the first time since 2016 and The Open is back at Royal Portrush, where McIlroy struggled to an opening-round 79 and then was reduced to tears after missing the cut on home soil in 2019.

Sir Henry Cotton, Julius Boros, Hale Irwin and Ben Crenshaw have all endured 11-year waits between major victories, with Tiger Woods ending a drought of a similar length when he claimed his 15th major title with a one-shot victory at The Masters in 2019.

Should McIlroy leave Northern Ireland next July still without another major to his name, then any future success would result in the longest gap between major victories in history. If he doesn't get over the line soon, the major scars will only deepen.

Watch Rory McIlroy in PGA Tour and DP World Tour action live this season on Sky Sports. The 152nd Open at Royal Troon is live from July 18-21 on Sky Sports Golf. Stream the PGA Tour, majors and more with NOW.