As a face in the crowd at the RDS on Friday night, Rory McIlroy found no comfort for post-Masters woes in the performance of the Ulster rugby team. Still, with support from such sporting luminaries as Alex Ferguson, Rafael Nadal and Greg Norman, he appears to be coping with a dramatic collapse which clearly rocked him to the core.
In an extended interview in yesterday's London Times McIlroy also made it clear that he attributes no blame to his caddie, JP Fitzgerald. "I think JP does a great job," he said. "A caddie is maybe five per cent of your game. I don't see how another caddie, Billy Foster [Lee Westwood's bagman] for example, would have done differently."
The only person he believes could have helped him through the greatest trauma of his young life was his mother, Rosie. "She would be a calming influence," he said. "She'd have just said 'you're OK; you're fine'."
McIlroy revealed that the manager of Manchester United sent him a text advising him to share his torment with those close to him. "Obviously you are going to be disappointed and hurting," texted Ferguson, "but go and speak to the people you trust, family and friends, the people closest to you. Those are the people who will tell you the truth." Nadal told McIlroy: "What you did for the first three days [at Augusta] was awesome. Your time will come, my friend."
There were further comforting words in a phone call from Norman who famously relinquished a six-shot lead after 54 holes when losing the Masters to Nick Faldo in 1996. "I was 41 when it happened at Augusta. You're 21. You're good enough to get yourself in that position again. Just control what you can do and don't get distracted by all the talk around you."
McIlroy is clearly not afraid to confront the issue. Augusta's 10th hole, the beginning of his back-nine torment, is currently the screensaver on his laptop. And only last week, he forced himself yet again to watch a DVD of the fateful homeward journey.
But he talked about the infamous c-word (choker), without actually using it. "I hate that word," he said. "It's just a terrible word. It's not something you want to be associated with. The worst thing you can be called in golf apart from cheat."
Yet he remains quietly pragmatic. "I am not defiant or in denial," he said. "I've learned a lot in the last few weeks. I only found out since the Masters that it took Tom Watson five or six goes [to win his first major] and what's he won, eight. Great players have had their defeats."
Sunday Indo Sport