This weekend at Kaiwah Island, Rory McIlroy turned in another masterpiece, winning the PGA Championship by eight shots, capping it off the 72nd hole with a birdie putt. The victory also placed him above Luke Donald as the #1 golfer in the world.
Following his second major victory in the last 14 months, McIlroy is now at the forefront of the golfing world for the right reasons again. He spent his entire summer battling his game, mired in mediocrity. From the Masters in April until The Open Championship in July, Rory missed four cuts. The majors were a disaster; he finished 40th at Augusta, missed the U.S. Open cut, and finished 60th at Royal Lytham.
He claimed to have found something in his swing at the Bridgestone Invitational, finishing 5th the week before the PGA Championship. I guess he was right; he was outstanding at Kiawah.
Since winning the U.S. Open last summer McIlroy was pulled in a million different directions. He travelled to Haiti to work for UNICEF, he played golf all over the world, he partied with buddies at home, and he watched Caroline Wozniacki play tennis (heck, wouldn't you?). It seemed he had lost his focus; in his own words he had "taken his eye off the ball."
I have found myself defending McIlroy in conversations with my dad, who believes he does not have the guts to win consistently, or to dominate the way others with equal talent have in the past. I have to remind him that McIlroy is 23 years old, that no one will ever be as hyper focused as Tiger at 23 years old (and maybe no one should…). On Sunday, McIlroy showed his age. Not while he was playing, but afterwards, when he had the chance to discuss his victory and his average summer of golf.
I was shocked at Rory's frankness regarding the bad press he received both about his golf game and his social life. During his press conference Rory discussed his Friday round and how a round of 75 in that brutal wind could have easily ballooned to a round of 77 or 78. You could see him thinking, then he quipped that it would not have mattered anyway given his eight-stroke victory. It was a light moment, but it showed who McIlroy is and that he isn't shy about bragging just a little bit. It felt like a comment a guy would make at the bar following a round of golf while drinking a beer with his buddies.
In an interview with Tim Rosaforte he said his victory, "For want of a better phrase, shut a few people up." The beauty in this statement, and some of his other honest moments is that they are exactly that — honest. You could tell he thought about what he was going to say, he twisted his mouth, then simply said it in that syrupy accent (accents do let you get away with saying a lot more, don't they?).
Tim Rosaforte also quoted Jack Nicklaus' wife, Barbara, who said Rory was "such a nice young man." Rosaforte asked if Rory could still be nice to everyone and be a great champion?
McIlroy has Tiger as a perfect case study in what to do, but also what not to do.
McIlroy responded, "I'd much rather have people say that about me, that he's a nice guy, rather than a great golfer…I'm not better than anyone else because I'm a great golfer." Is that a shot across Tiger's bow? I think so.
McIlroy is going to be compared to Tiger Woods for the next eight months leading up to the Masters. If he collects a third major next summer, the talk will ramp up even more. The comparisons will no doubt be made between the two and their golf game, but I think it will be worth also looking at how Rory handles himself off the course.
Tiger made the decision to close people out, the media and fellow competitors to be specific. Tiger made that choice following an off-color joke to Esquire which made him look really bad.
Tiger also wanted to be the family man everyone expected him to be, so he got married and had kids, which clearly was not something he was ready for. In some sick way, Tiger bowed to the pressure of society. McIlroy, on the other hand, seems to be doing what he wants to do, while not hurting others along the way. At times he seems like Tiger on the course and Phil Mickelson off of it.
McIlroy has Tiger as a perfect case study in what to do, but also what not to do. It will be key that McIlroy figures out who he wants to be, and who he wants the world to see. Things can spin quickly out of control. I hope he continues his honesty and openness; it's refreshing and entertaining. He's a cocky kid who is uber-talented. He'll be fun to watch for to years to come. Here's hoping he's fun to listen to as well.
Fan Hub Action
Marcy Kelly June 12th
Wow! I must have listened to a completely differnt press conference. Oh, wait- you convinently left off all of the good things they just got…
Nathan Devine June 5th
The dude is nasty. The fastball is REAL heavy at 97-100. Steady improvement every year.
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
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