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Tuesday 16 September 2014

McIlroy can take lessons of 2013 into next season

Karl MacGinty

Published 12/12/2013 | 23:31

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Rory McIlroy holds aloft the Australian Open trophy

THE world seized on Greg Norman's suggestion in a lengthy magazine interview in the US that, in his prime, he'd have beaten Tiger Woods -- but there's also a powerful message for Rory McIlroy in the Great White Shark's musings.

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Particularly in view of McIlroy's admission last Sunday that media interest in his private life, principally his relationship with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and his parting from management team Horizon, got to him during a difficult year.

"It's been the first year I've had to put up with scrutiny and criticism," McIlroy said at Tiger's end-of-season jolly in southern California. "You just have to believe in what you're doing and not let it get to you too much. I let it get to me a few times."

Especially when it related to events outside the ropes: "All the other stuff," he explained. "I don't care what people say about my golf. It's when people start digging into my personal life, that's where it starts to annoy you.

"Whether it's Caroline, the management, all that should be no consequence to how I play my golf."

Yet as a world No 1, McIlroy inevitably was going to become the subject of massive media and public interest on and off the course.

It is naive to expect it to switch off when he signs his card, and switch back on again when he reaches the practice ground the following morning. Nike aren't paying McIlroy $20m per annum just to hit balls or be a clothes horse. It's a 24/7 commitment.

Learning how to manage his time, his image and his utterances and becoming comfortable with every aspect of life as a global sports star is part of the job, the ever-outspoken Norman suggests.

"Golf teaches you about who you are -- how you deal with failure, how you deal with success, how you deal with humility, how you deal with the public," said the Australian.

He wasn't referring to McIlroy or to anyone else but the following words seem particularly relevant: "Most people fail in at least a few areas, so you've got to work at it. I certainly had to. If you truly want to succeed at golf, business, life, any endeavour -- you have to fully commit to it.

"It's not enough to only want it. The competition is too heavy. And if you're lucky enough to reach the top of whatever you do, then you actually have to work harder, because everyone underneath is gunning for you. Unfortunately, there's no quit."

McIlroy won only once this year, at the Australian Open, but he surely learned a few valuable life lessons in 2013.

DELAY

Meanwhile, for the second year in succession, heavy rain in Durban played havoc at the Nelson Mandela Championship, leading to a seven-hour delay in yesterday's first round.

Damien McGrane, alone among the five Irish at Mount Edgecombe, managed to finish his round. A one-over-par 71 left the Kells man nine shots off the scorching pace set by England's Q-School graduate Daniel Brooks (26) with a flawless 62.

Simon Thornton was one-under with just the par-three ninth to play, tied with David Higgins, who faces the final two holes this morning after sleeping on a bogey at 16.

Kevin Phelan was even-par after two holes and Michael Hoey had yet to tee off as darkness fell.

Organisers are aiming for a Saturday finish in deference to Mandela's state funeral on Sunday, so if the weather doesn't improve, the tournament, which was reduced to 36 holes last year, may be cut short once again.

NELSON MANDELA CHAMPIONSHIP,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 9.30

Irish Independent

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