It's true what they say, you have to lose a big one to win a big one
Published 25/12/2011 | 05:00
Rory McIlroy turns disaster into
If the natural inclination is to limit personal pain while prolonging one's successes with an easy relish, then Rory McIlroy got the balance just about right. After last April's US Masters collapse was compressed into an eventful 42 minutes, he indulged himself through four days of dominance when capturing the US Open at Congressional two months later.
In only his third Masters challenge, McIlroy seemed to lend a new dimension to precocious talent when leading by a stroke entering the fearsome arena of Augusta National's back nine on Sunday afternoon, April 10. But at 4.52, he suddenly became aware of the heightened temperature: his drive on the 10th was pulled ruinously left to finish 50 yards from the fairway, between two cabins.
At 4.58, his third shot, from the fairway, missed the 10th green, left. And at 5.06, he eventually found the cup for a triple-bogey seven. From there, in the way of this fearsome challenge, the torment proceeded to build.
5.28: After a bogey on the 11th, he again missed a par putt, this time on the treacherous short 12th. And worse was to come when he also missed the return to run up a double-bogey. In only 34 minutes, he dropped from leader on 11-under to five-under and out of the top 10.
5.34: His tee-shot on the dog-leg 13th was pulled into a tributary of Rae's Creek. That's when we witnessed the breaking of a brave young heart as he buried his addled head in his right arm. And when a bogey knocked him back to seven-over for the day, his challenge was at an end. To his great credit, however, he managed to cover the remaining five holes in one-over, albeit for a closing 80 and a share of 15th place.
How devastating was this set-back? Apparently not devastating at all in the mind of the player, given that only a few weeks later he predicted: "I feel like I can win one, two Majors this year."
Gerry McIlroy was notably absent from Augusta when, one imagines, his son could have used the sort of emotional support only a loving father can give. But things were different at Congressional where upwards of 20,000 voices around the final green rose in joyous salute to a record-breaking triumph by our Holywood star. And as Gerry embraced his amazing son, it was hard to imagine a better backdrop for Father's Day.
Generous in praise of his dad, who walked every hole as an emotional bulwark, the newly crowned champion said: "He's been a big help to me all week. He's so positive. It was great just to have breakfast with him and talk about how I was feeling and how I planned to approach each day. Then I could go out on the course and think about what he'd said. If it wasn't for my mum and dad sacrificing so much, I probably wouldn't be here."
More than 3,000 miles away, the special bond evoked by those words wasn't lost on another famous Irish golfer who celebrated his 87th birthday last Wednesday.
"On Father's Day to see Rory and Gerry, dad and son, the same as we saw Graeme (McDowell) and his dad last year at Pebble Beach: isn't that a family love story in a magnificent way," said Christy O'Connor. "Dads and their sons . . . it makes me so proud."
A one-time boyhood idol of McIlroy's, now attempting to reshape a broken career, saw fit to send him a text message via the newspaper USA Today. "What a performance from start to finish!" said Tiger Woods. "Enjoy the win. Well done." Augusta's back nine had become a distant memory.
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