Sport Golf

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Sinéad Kissane: 'It might be worth rolling with Rory McIlroy's glorious inconsistencies'

Rory McIlroy will play for Ireland at next year's Olympics
Rory McIlroy will play for Ireland at next year's Olympics
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty

Sinéad Kissane

Keeping up with what Rory McIlroy says next is a game in itself. After slamming golf at the Olympics, this week McIlroy did a u-turn on his original u-turn and said he wants to play golf for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

If you want inconsistencies, holes, curve-balls, truths, dares, I'm delighted to tell you that keeping-up-with-what McIlroy-says-next is a game for you.

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This isn't a game for you if you're going around with a ledger expecting McIlroy's quotes to perfectly match-up with what he said a few years previously. This isn't a game for you if you want McIlroy to never show that human quality of changing his mind.

Or how he consistently finds ways of bringing attention on himself - by being himself - and that includes the annoyingly human trait of being inconsistent. No, you need to find yourself another game because this game ain't for you.

A few things before we start playing keeping-up-with-what-McIlroy-says-next. The most important rule is that this game isn't about you. Got it? It's not about you or your feelings. It's hard to play that hand, I know, but this game is rigged against you if that's your approach.

This game isn't about how you may feel that McIlroy has made your life less exciting through the decisions he's made and the golf he's played.

This game isn't about how you may have felt let-down by McIlroy's decision to not play in the 2016 Rio Olympics because you had already imagined lasting memories around jumping up and down, fist-pumping like nobody's watching and cupping your ear at the TV and roaring 'I can't hear you' as the BBC commentary team debated where it all went wrong that McIlroy should have declared for Ireland instead of Great Britain and NI after he won Olympic gold.

This game isn't about why McIlroy's sense of identity may not immediately match your own and your own ease with sensitive issues like flags and national anthems and who gets to decide how and what nationality should feel and look like.

This game isn't about how McIlroy may continue to personally let you down by failing to fulfil that redemptive arc your life desires with him finally winning the Masters.

We need McIlroy to win it, not for himself, but for us to feel that there's always a neatly-wrapped happy ending after all the tears and emotional meltdowns. Not the ones he went through, but the ones he put us through.

This game isn't about how you may feel robbed of the chance to fully enjoy this summer's Irish Open because McIlroy has decided not to play in it because of his plans to prepare for The Open at Royal Portrush two weeks later.

This isn't about deciding to ignore the bigger picture that McIlroy actually helped save the future of the Irish Open by becoming the host of it and how, after a run of missed cuts, he delivered a win at The K Club three years ago. The idea of playing a game without your emotions or feelings or opinions being involved goes against everything we hold dear about sport.

Sport can be delightfully narcissistic because most/all of the time it's about how it makes you feel. Tiger Woods gets it. He obviously only won that Masters last month just so we could weep at the images of him hugging his kids.

Maybe, deep down, there's a sense that sport might owe us in some way for the support and time we give it. Kind of like what McIlroy once said about Augusta. Three years ago, before the third round, he said: "I sort of feel that Augusta owes me something and I have come with that attitude. I have come here to get something that I should have had a long time ago."

Who else would dare say something like that? Let's imagine for a moment that McIlroy actually owes us nothing. Do not pass go in this game if you're thinking about yourself and your own feelings when it comes to McIlroy. The simple rule of this game is to view it through the prism of Rory McIlroy.

So . . .

Ah, flip, who am I kidding, who wants to play that game? When McIlroy announced this week that he wants to play for Ireland at next year's Olympics, it came with a sidebar feeling of why is he dragging us through this all again? Why is he not thinking of our feelings in all of this? Why is he being so human and doing something like changing his mind?

We had McIlroy neatly boxed off as the guy who would never set foot on an Olympic golf course and we had the quotes to prove it.

"When it was announced (that golf was to be an Olympic sport) in 2009 or whatever, all of a sudden if put me in a position where I had to question who I am. Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to p**s off the most? I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in - that's my feeling towards it - and whether that's right or wrong, it's how I feel," McIlroy said in an interview with Paul Kimmage in the Sunday Independent in January 2017. Who else would dare admit a truth like that?

But what if we just think of McIlroy's declaration that he now wants to play in Tokyo from his point of view? What about his stubbornness not bottoming out to the point where he thought he could never go back on what he said in the past.

What about if he finally found a hook to play at the Olympics, or, as he pointed out, "It's not a superficial decision. It's something that you have to really believe in", and maybe his connection with Neil Manchip, the GUI national coach who is set to manage the golf team in Tokyo, helped him find that. Doesn't he have the right to change his mind?

So let's fast-forward to day nine of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, August 2, 2020. McIlroy has just won a medal for Ireland. And maybe after the jumping around, the fist-pumping (if that's your thing), you sit back in your sofa and realise it was all worth it - the gloriously maddening inconsistencies that McIlroy put us through to get to this point were absolutely worth it.

Maybe it won't happen. With McIlroy you just never know. But he gets you hooked, at whatever level, in his game.

You wanna roll the dice first?

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