Sport Golf

Thursday 18 September 2014

'This is for you mum' - Rory McIlroy turns triumph into special mother's day party

Oliver Brown

Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30

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Once, Rosie McIlroy's daily wake-up routine was to be bashed over the head with a plastic golf club by her young scamp of a son.

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Yesterday, the scene was rather less quotidian, as she found herself summoned by Rory as the first guest of honour on the 18th green to toast his British Open title.

Somehow, it made all those night shifts she used to work at the 3M factory in Belfast, packaging thousands of rolls of tape, seem worth every last drop of sacrifice.

"This is for you, mum," said Rory, her only child, the Claret Jug safely in his hands after a day of swirling tension.

Rory McIlroy kisses the Claret Jug after victory at the British Open in Hoylake. Photo credit: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Rory McIlroy kisses the Claret Jug after victory at the British Open in Hoylake. Photo credit: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Gerry McIlroy, the former bartender at Holywood Golf Club, lodged £200 with Ladbrokes at 500/1 that his son, Rory, then just 15, would lift the famous Claret Jug in the next 10 years. Photo credit: Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Gerry McIlroy, the former bartender at Holywood Golf Club, lodged £200 with Ladbrokes at 500/1 that his son, Rory, then just 15, would lift the famous Claret Jug in the next 10 years. Photo credit: Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy celebrates with the claret jug and family and friends last night.
Rory McIlroy celebrates with the claret jug and family and friends last night.

Her eyes brimmed, together with those of a few thousand others in this Hoylake amphitheatre.

It was poignant that she should have been so chosen, given that it is father Gerry who invariably takes the acclaim for his mentoring and guidance after McIlroy's glories – not least when Rory won the US Open on Father's Day.

But when the prize most coveted of all was finally seized, it was time for a little maternal redress.

This was, in the most immediate sense, a family celebration, but the swell of adoration for McIlroy here on the outer limits of Merseyside hinted at a far wider resonance.

Only one person, some witless fool accused of deliberately coughing on his backswing on the 16th tee, seemed to be urging him to fail, but otherwise the sense prevailed of a crowd – scratch that, an entire country willing a triumph telegraphed from the cradle to be brought to this dazzling fruition.

McIlroy winning the Open constitutes a sporting snapshot so precious that we remember where we heard or where we watched, in often implausibly rich detail.

So let us conjure, for posterity, the scene as McIlroy became the first European to win a third different Major, drawing his third line on golf's quadrilateral of greatness.

The putt for the win was tiny, all of six inches, of the kind we might imagine for ourselves out on the putting green on a midsummer's evening.

WEATHER

The Wirral weather, until now wonderfully benign save for one biblical cloudburst on Saturday afternoon, was starting to turn as a dense grey clag rolled in from the Irish Sea.

McIlroy made a point of walking in a large circle around to his ball, safe in the knowledge that he would roll it in and determined, as such, to drink in an atmosphere as pregnant with significance as he had always envisaged.

With one last short pendulum swing of the putter, it was done. McIlroy merely stood there and smiled, clenching his fist in quiet self-satisfaction.

It used to be called a Polaroid moment, except this would be one memorialised a million times on Instagram.

It did not matter that Nike had dressed him for the day in a peculiar grey-and-fuschia muscle-shirt that suggested that they would not feature at the Paris couture shows any time soon, for he had done what many believe he was put on this earth to do.

True, McIlroy had needed to withstand the most sustained pressure from Sergio Garcia and fellow young buck Rickie Fowler en route, but this mature round of 71 ensured his trajectory to the top remained two.

He can count himself as one of only three players to hold three Majors by the age of 25 – the other two were Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. And Woods, should McIlroy have cared at any stage to glance in his rear-view mirror, was 23 shots behind.

"I never dreamt of being at this point in my career so quickly," he said. "The Open was the one you really wanted growing up."

Come the Masters at Augusta in eight months' time, McIlroy will not be able to move for lenses and microphones as he closes in on the career Grand Slam.

It is a quite astonishing state of affairs only a year on from Muirfield, where he toiled through the Open in what he conceded had been a distracted, "unconscious" state.

"I've found my passion again for golf. Not that it ever dwindled, but it's what I think about when I get up in the morning, and when I go to bed. I just want to be the best golfer I can be."

At certain points, right until the end, McIlroy had looked apprehensive, tweaking a straightforward par putt at the sixth and depositing his approach to the last in a corner of the greenside bunker.

But the susceptibilities to abject implosion, exemplified by the one he suffered at the 2011 Masters, have been erased.

Instead, there is an unwavering conviction that he knows how to cross the line on this stage.

While the two-shot margin of victory lacked the crushing emphasis that his birdie at the first portended, McIlroy has won his three Majors by a combined 18 shots. Ernie Els, as a point of comparison, won his four by a total of four.

McIlroy has been buffeted by his share of the vicissitudes of youth, in life and love, and he even suggested in his reflections last night that he had occasionally lost some of his focus.

There was a certain pathos in the fact that, in the hour of his greatest achievement, Caroline Wozniacki, the fiancee from whom he split less than two months ago, was winning a tennis title of her own in Istanbul.

Serenity on the course has been juxtaposed with turbulence off it, so it was fitting as he stood here in the gloaming, an Open champion, that he should reach for one constant in his first 25 years of existence: his mother. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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