By Brendan Boylan,
Rory McIlroy mused in the afterglow of his latest Major triumph that ‘Some people were probably pressing panic buttons’. It wasn’t hard to decode what he meant. One suspects he felt some folks thought he had his own finger trigger ready. While he could hardly adopt a ‘they’re all against me stance’, he must have sensed doubts somewhere. Maybe within himself even. Whatever he thought about what anyone else was thinking, he seems to have fed off it. And it’s been proven – not for the first time – that sometimes a siege mentality is no harm.
Golf by its nature is a fickle, sometimes erratic game. Watching McIlroy often is the best illustration of that exact point. At his best, he can destroy golf courses and leave world class opponents choking on dust clouds. Then, there are the other days. The four missed cuts in succession. The two Masters disasters. Perhaps, though, that’s just human nature. In fact, it most certainly is.
Nobody can be brilliant every day, in spirit, body or deed. But on the other hand, nobody suddenly becomes bad at what they do overnight. After all, despite the prophecies of doom, it must be recalled that McIlroy win the Honda Classic earlier in the year. Tiger Woods finished closest of the chasing pack. And he’s still the benchmark, despite what some might like to think or profess.
You suspect that the doubts and the negative vibes – either within himself or, as he felt it, from others – have gnawed at the Hollywood superstar. That’s what makes top class, world class – as he undoubtedly is – competitors stand out. Put simply, not only dealing with adversity, but feeding off it.
There was an unmistakable feel of ‘Proving people wrong’ about Rory all week at Kiawah Island. To put all the focus in that way would be cold and callous. In a sense, the player was exactly that. Not, it must be stressed, in any negative or derogatory way. Just in terms of him being at his destructive, exhibitionist best. Tearing another notoriously difficult course apart in the process.
Sometimes, things just roll in a certain way and avoiding getting swept away by it all is impossible. McIlroy admitted after another record breaking Major triumph to be inspired by the achievement of Katie Taylor in the Olympics. Another way of putting it would be to say that he, too, was effected by the feel good factor that enveloped all of Ireland during events in London.
He too has been inspiration to many. And is likely to continue to be so for decades to come. One needed only to see his astounding efforts as he extricated himself from a hellish situation when his ball became lodged in a tree on the third hole in the third round and somehow miraculously garnered himself a par to see the undoubted class the lad has and understand why he’s such a crowd favourite.
Rory in overdrive is a sight to behold. The echoes of his US Open triumph at Colonial were deafening. If, only initially, a little more restrained. Going into the final round with a share of the lead, a degree of caution was going to have to apply early on. Very quickly though, it became obvious that the 23-year-old was in control. Of himself, the course and everyone else on it.
The latest glowing moment in a career that’s bound to be peppered with buckets more got the fairytale and fitting finish as a long range putt sank on the final hole. Taking its’ striker to a not unlucky 13 under par. A staggering eight shots clear of David Lynn. The latter – as has often occurred in the past – enjoyed a final day Major charge. Which could possibly signal him as one to follow going forward.
If he can build on such a finish and perform consistently as he did in Carolina. That’s the thing with golf, however, it’s most predictable characteristic is unpredictability. As for McIlroy, any morsels of doubts that remained must surely now have dissipated. There will always be an especial place in this corner for Tiger Woods but surely now it’s beyond question that the Down man is the greatest player in the world. No, another rant about the rankings in the game isn’t on the cards!
There’s still much to look forward to in the golfing year. Foremost among the highlights, of course, will be the FedEX and Ryder Cup competitions. The former is – as far as the Americans would be concerned – in some ways at least – the pinnacle of the season. There’s something endlessly appealing about the Ryder Cup. Maybe it appeals more to the Irish psyche than to some others. After all, a bit of siege mentality and tribal warfare can have its advantages. In sport at least.
All of which leads us to wonder what representation we will have there. Rory and Graeme McDowell are obviously certainties. It must be said that some comments attributed to European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal regarding Padraig Harrington were surprising and, frankly, disappointing.
Watching the Dubliner play at times can be an exercise in frustration, but it’s beyond question that he has discovered something like his best form as this season has gone on. Sceptics and begrudgers will probably knit pick at the fact that – were he to be again offered a wildcard – it’d be down to the fact that Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke were recently appointed vice captains by the Spaniard. Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn being the other deputy.
That would represent an unfair appraisal however. Harrington’s recovery of form – and his ever battling efforts to do so – deserves to be rewarded on merit. Apart from that, experience in something like the Ryder Cup is crucial and absolutely invaluable. Hopefully common sense and justice will prevail and the tricolour will be hoisted in Medinah. Thankfully, the wait for it all to begin is almost over!