Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell being pictured with their partners acting as caddies for them in the build up to the US Masters was telling. Particularly in the case of the former. Simply because you couldn’t imagine Tiger Woods or Luke Donald or some of the other top pros engaging in such antics during the build up to a Major. Or at any time, for that matter. All the episode did, for this observer at least, was reinforce the view that McIlroy’s mind isn’t where it should be. And that it hasn’t been for some time either. Now I’ve never had any issues with wisdom teeth and do not desire to. Nor is it doubted that they’re an extremely painful thing. But, one cannot help feeling that he should get his teeth into what really matters.
The merits of the now former world number one changing his golf clubs are not about to be debated here. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure the reasoning behind it. What’s worrying, though, is the feeling that Rory has got caught up in the razzle-dazzle that goes with his new backers. Not to mention matters off the course as well. In other words, he’s taken his eye off the ball.
At least that would appear to sum up the majority of his season thus far. For there’s no way a player who is genuinely as brilliant as Rory obviously is could’ve become as bad as he’s been performing of late. In terms of Augusta, gut feeling is there’s something deeper mentally at play there. How exactly that might be sorted is another day’s work altogether.
These things happen in sport. You half come to expect them. You anticipate the wheels beginning to fall off the wagon. Knowing all that doesn’t make it any easier to watch, however. Maybe, in one sense, it was just as well the latest episode got swallowed up by what was going on at the business end of the tournament.
Further media exposure and inquisition would surely have left the player even more exasperated by his experiences in the place. Which he must be at this stage anyway. That said, you sense that only he can work his way out of it at this stage.
Even allowing for the fact that Rory’s latest Masters disaster was largely ignored, there were innumerable talking points. Hardly surprising either that with Rory out of the spotlight most of them revolved around Tiger.
Let’s be straight here – the rules of the game weren’t adhered to. The greatest player the game has ever seen took an incorrect drop having put his ball in a hazard. Thus, he should’ve been disqualified. That he wasn’t is hardly his fault. Naturally, the whiter-than-whites decreed that he should’ve removed himself.
Balderdash. Regardless of the sport or the level of it, one of the first things competitors are told is ‘Play the whistle’. In other words, don’t stop until you’re told to. These same do-gooders probably reckon Joe Sheridan should’ve had a word with Martin Sludden about that goal. Or that Neil Back might have admitted transgressing at a crucial stage against Munster years ago. That’s not how it works. Yes, the authorities bottled it, badly, but it’s fairly easy to see why. So much of sport nowadays is money driven. Tiger means bodies going through turnstiles or, at worst, bums in front of televisions. Take him out and the attractiveness of the product diminishes.
So yes, he should’ve been removed, but the event would’ve been worse off for it. Therein lies one of the many contradictions of a fickle game. Mind you, with all the brouhaha about Woods, an even greater – and potentially more serious contradiction – was occurring right at the coalface of the drama late on the Sunday.
For some reason, some other busybody decided to kick up a storm about broom-handled putters. Why this erupted all of a sudden is hard to fathom. They’ve been about for as long as the one seeing eye here can remember golf. Right, so they’re not ‘the norm’, but sure half the appeal of them, you suspect, is exactly that.
Evidence has proven they work, too. Great players like Sam Torrance and Ernie Els have enjoyed success with them over the years. And not a whimper about it. So why now? Simply because, methinks, of the propensity that exists in golf to pay too much attention to what those not in control of the game phone in and complain about.
Remember the time Padraig Harrington was ousted because somebody watching at home complained? Somebody similar probably whinged about Tiger’s ball moving an inch. That’s probably where the furore over the long putter originated as well. Some of the rules in golf are quite ridiculous, but the first thing those in power need to do is stop acting on a whim.
Thankfully, regarding putters, the issue may already have been put to bed for them. Surely, after Adam Scott’s epic win, the din demanding action will be hushed. Hopefully the Australian’s brilliance will bring an end to what was, essentially, much ado about nothing.