Tuesday 16 July 2019

Be patient, Rory - top coach sure your day will come

The world's top sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella has tipped Rory McIlroy to win 'multiple Masters', writes Niamh Horan

FUTURE IS BRIGHT: Rory McIlroy walks with his wife Erica Stoll during practice for the 2018 Masters golf tournament. Picture: Reuters
FUTURE IS BRIGHT: Rory McIlroy walks with his wife Erica Stoll during practice for the 2018 Masters golf tournament. Picture: Reuters
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Rory McIlroy may be feeling the frustration following his Masters disappointment, but perhaps he should spare a moment to listen to the world's most prominent sports psychologist.

Dr Bob Rotella, who worked as mind coach for 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed last Sunday, has tipped McIlroy to win "multiple Masters" before he is done.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Independent, Dr Rotella says if the Co Down man continues to play golf the way he has been playing, then it is only a matter of time.

"The single most important thing to take away from [last weekend] is that he had the guts and the courage to get back in position to win," said Dr Rotella.

"You are only in trouble when you come close [to winning the Masters] and you don't ever want to get in that position again because you are afraid you are going to get ripped to shreds. So give the guy a lot of credit for getting himself into the final group on Sunday. That was really impressive.

"Rory made an unbelievable par on the first hole, which to me says he has got his wits about him, where he hit that drive to turn that into a four was pretty incredible and then the two shots he hit on the second hole, I mean this kid is going after it. My guess is if he had made the putt on number two, then everything would have changed. Not only for him, but for Patrick.

"Golf is a game of momentum. If something different happened on those first three holes it might have changed not only how he played but how Patrick played and sometimes you need breaks like that."

The best-selling author of How Champions Think - who took the podium at the Pendulum summit in Dublin in January - also spoke of the expectations surrounding the Northern Ireland native.

"Since he was a little kid, people have been telling him he could be 'the greatest'. I remember Patrick talking about how Rory could break all of Tiger's records for majors, so the level of expectations he had to deal with are pretty incredible and he has dealt with them and done well I would say," he says acknowledging his victories at the Open, the US Open and the PGA Championship.

Giving Rory advice, Dr Rotella said: "The number one thing I would say to him is stay an optimist. Know in your mind and your heart that you are destined to win a bunch of Masters and that it is going to happen and just keep playing golf and believing in yourself. What happens on tour is that the game beats you up and you start doubting and questioning yourself- but you have got to keep believing in yourself.

"One of the great things he has done is to stay with his childhood teacher and they have a great relationship and he just needs to keep doing that and I would tell him: don't start searching for 'perfect'. He has a swing that works under pressure, he has a great short game, he has just got to keep on keeping it simple. You have got to stay patient and you have got to stay positive."

Dr Rotella also touched on Rory's strong relationship with his parents who he says are Rory's "rock" and with his wife Erica. The couple celebrate their first wedding anniversary later this month.

"Certainly for most players having a great home life plays a really big role. Here is why it means a lot: if you come home and you don't play well and someone still loves you unconditionally and is happy to be with you, versus someone who is giving you grief and bugging you and asking you what happened, it can destroy relationships. So you have to have a rock. It just makes it a lot easier."

The performance psychologist also says if Rory chooses to have a family, it will be much easier to fit into his routine.

"When you start having kids it either makes you great or it changes things because I think all of a sudden now is my whole family going to travel with me? But the world is changing. Twenty years ago if you had three kids and one of them was sick and staying in your hotel room, the player was sleeping in the bath tub. Today they just go get a nanny and they get two rooms and the kids stay in one room. But man, having a happy marriage - I talk about its importance all the time with players.

"I have been married 44 years, I can't imagine doing what I do if it wasn't great. It's really hard if you are a tour player, and your family life is miserable. All we have to look at is the greatest player ever - Jack Nicklaus. I don't think you could have a better family life.

"I remember a year ago or so Nick Faldo was trying to tell Rory to be more single-minded and be more like him and my immediate reaction was: 'No, be more like Jack Nicklaus!' Jack, from a very early age, had a company he was running, he was designing golf courses, he had six kids, he was home for all their games, if all you do is think about golf all day, this game can drive you nuts."

One story dominating headlines since Reed's win is the rift between the golfer and his family, who live in Augusta but were not at the course to see Reed's greatest achievement. Dr Rotella said: "That's some members of the media talking as if they are writing for the National Enquirer."

"The important story is that he and his wife can't be any closer. She loves him to death, her brother caddies for him now and he is good friends with her family."

He said Reed's relationship with his own family didn't work because his parents had difficulty "separating Patrick from his golf". "I think there are moments in life when he probably wishes things were different, but I think he is a kid who wasn't brought up being told that he was going to be the next superstar. So he had to have a great mind. And he is a 'tough cookie'. He is the kind of kid who came up as the underdog and likes to play with a little chip on the shoulder. This idea that 'no one else in the world believes in me but me' and it kind of forced him to have to believe in himself and, God bless him, he has done that."

Sunday Independent

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