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Rory McIlroy doesn't owe anyone anything


When Rory McIlroy spun the tires of his U.S. Open courtesy car and sped out of Pinehurst's parking lot minutes after Bryson DeChambeau sank his major-clinching putt, the pitchforks came out.

Critics were quick to pile on McIlroy, who experienced - in his own words - "the toughest" day of his professional career.

Lacking sympathy, they questioned McIlroy's mental toughness, calling him soft for not facing the media to answer questions about what transpired as he let another major championship title slip through his fingers.

People challenged McIlroy's sportsmanship, too, labeling him a sore loser for not congratulating DeChambeau on the victory.

And when McIlroy announced his withdrawal from this week's Travelers Championship - the PGA TOUR's final signature event of the season - to "process everything" and prepare for his Scottish Open title defense, critics bashed him for bailing on the tournament's paying fans and sponsors.

But let's set one thing straight: McIlroy doesn't owe anyone anything.

He doesn't owe the media immediate answers. He doesn't owe Bryson a handshake. And he certainly doesn't owe the PGA TOUR anything more than he's already given it over the past three years as the TOUR's most vocal player in its battle against LIV - all while commissioner Jay Monahan largely stayed quiet behind the scenes.

Would it have been a nice gesture for McIlroy to find DeChambeau after the round and say, "Hey, good job"? Sure.

But where are all the people mad at Tony Finau or Patrick Cantlay for not seeking out DeChambeau in public for a photo op? Since when does the runner-up have to do the congratulating? It's unfair to McIlroy for the rest of the field to be off the hook because DeChambeau beat them by more shots.

Let's also not gloss over the fact DeChambeau sued the PGA TOUR and is part of the reason why there's a divide in the men's professional game - one McIlroy's been spending time and energy trying to mend.

Any tension between the two is understandable, and that's without McIlroy's emotions running high after one of the worst losses of his career.

If the two played together in the final pairing and Rory skipped the end-of-round handshake, that would be a story. This isn't

Doing media after the round also isn't mandatory. Yes, Jean Van de Velde, Greg Norman, and Phil Mickelson all answered the bell when they choked away major championships. Kudos to them. It can't be easy fielding questions after a historic collapse.

But questioning McIlroy's mental toughness for not speaking to the media is too harsh, and removes the human element from the situation. That McIlroy is also dealing with issues in his personal life is also public knowledge.

We can only guess what was going on in McIlroy's head as he watched DeChambeau pull off an otherworldly up-and-down to seal his fate - an image of defeat that went viral.

There's a chance McIlroy could have provided insight about what he was feeling shortly after the loss, or a memorable soundbite like Mickelson in 2006 when he called himself an "idiot."

There's also a chance - probably a better one - McIlroy wouldn't have had much to say. Making him relive agonizing short missed putts while negative emotions ran rampant might have led to a moment he'd later regret.

"But it's part of the job! They're entertainers!"

To those demanding McIlroy speak: His abrupt Pinehurst exit provided more entertainment and subsequent discussion than any quote could have.

And for those upset with Rory's decision to skip the Travelers, which somehow means he's letting the PGA TOUR down, please zoom out.

He's done more for the PGA TOUR than any other player since 2021. He's been on the front lines of the LIV debate, doing more media and answering more questions than anyone else on TOUR.

McIlroy's held up his end of the bargain. He's played in most of the signature events, and was thrust into the role as the PGA TOUR's de facto leader, a position he never asked for but one he's handled with grace and professionalism.

To expect him to play a few days after the worst heartbreak of his career is unreasonable.

In fact, McIlroy's rarely played the week after taxing majors. Since 2010, not including signature events, he's played the week following a major only four times. It makes complete sense for him to step away after the U.S. Open to decompress.

McIlroy will talk. No, it won't be to the media in Hartford, but the next time he steps in front of a microphone, he'll answer questions about his gut-wrenching Sunday at Pinehurst.

And with time to reflect and recharge, McIlroy will deliver on everyone's expectations. As he's done so many times before, he'll be able to articulate his thoughts, let us in on how the loss to DeChambeau felt in the moment, and tell us how he plans to move forward with the Open Championship quickly approaching.

A response of that nature seems far more insightful than one fueled by anger and heartbreak.

Right now, staying silent and stepping away is the only thing he owes anyone. And he owes it to himself.

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