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Nightmare at Pinehurst: 5 shots that doomed Rory's U.S. Open

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open title Sunday, but history will almost certainly remember the tournament first for Rory McIlroy's loss.

The 35-year-old played virtually flawless golf over Sunday's first 14 holes to erase a three-shot deficit and build a two-stroke edge on DeChambeau with five to play. However, the finish was a disaster: He bogeyed three of his final four holes to lose by a stroke, leaving his 10-year major drought intact.

So where did it all go wrong? These five key shots tell the story of the final four holes.

Tee shot on 15

Ask McIlroy to name his least favorite hole at Pinehurst, and he'd likely say the par-3 15th. He played the hole in 3-over for the week and didn't even give himself a chance to avoid a bogey Sunday after a costly mistake on the tee shot.

At 205 yards, the hole was playing the shortest it had all week, and McIlroy opted for a 7-iron off the tee. To hold the slick green, he needed a very high approach landing just over the false front - a challenge he should thrive on as one of the TOUR players with the highest apex. It was almost instantly clear that he'd chosen too much club; his ball only reached a 118-foot apex and landed near the back of the green before bounding through the putting surface and into the back wire grass.

A terrible lie behind a tuft left him no option but to play 30 feet away from the hole and two-putt for par. DeChambeau played the hole 11 minutes later and hit a sky-high 9-iron 129 feet in the air that held the green and gave him a decent shot at birdie.

Par putt on 16

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Despite the disappointing bogey on 15, McIlroy still held a one-stroke lead on No. 16 and absolutely roasted a drive 349 yards down the fairway. A sensible approach left him with 24 feet for birdie, with a two-putt for par likely the worst outcome. An excellent lag just past the hole gave him a 2-foot, 6-inch putt to get his par and move to the 17th tee. Despite all the fanfare he receives for his driving, McIlroy is actually the best short putter on TOUR this season, and he entered the 16th hole perfect on the year in putts under 3 feet.

He picked the worst possible time for a tentative stroke, pulling the putt to the left and missing on the low side. That shocking result dropped him back into a tie with DeChambeau.

Drive on 18

As per usual, McIlroy's driver had been a weapon all week, and he led the field in strokes gained: off the tee. That was likely the impetus behind him taking driver off the 18th tee; however, it marked a departure from how he'd been playing the hole all week. McIlroy opted for a 3-wood off the 18th tee in the first three rounds, but he changed his strategy in Sunday's pressure cooker. This time, he hooked his drive into the wire grass left of the fairway and found himself directly behind a large tuft for his approach. He couldn't advance his second shot to the green, leaving him a tricky pitch from the front of the green to get up-and-down for par. Many will point to what happened around and on the green at 18 as the reason McIlroy faltered, but the bad decision off the tee set the wheels of the disaster in motion.

Pitch on 18

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At first glance, McIlroy's pitch might seem like an odd choice for this list. With 94 feet to travel to the pin, he clipped his wedge nicely and left himself under 4 feet to save his par. While that's a very strong general result, he didn't stop the ball short of the hole, which left him facing a downhill slider to save his par. NBC lead analyst Brandel Chamblee instantly noticed on the broadcast and asserted that it was the worst spot McIlroy could leave himself after that pitch. Chamblee proved prescient, as it set up a shot that will be replayed for ages.

Par putt on 18

Decide for yourself whether it was a misread or McIlroy didn't give his par putt enough pace, but it looked like he was going to miss low the entire way. Adding to the drama, DeChambeau stood just over 100 yards away facing his approach, knowing full well that he could win the trophy with a par if McIlroy missed. McIlroy likely won't soon forget the groan from the packed grandstands after his putt failed to drop.

For the week, McIlroy had a total of 54 putts from inside 5 feet and missed two of them - the par putts on the 16th and 18th holes Sunday. McIlroy has endured a number of heartbreaking losses in his illustrious career, but it's tough to imagine any of them hurt more than what we witnessed at Pinehurst.

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