by Jeff Skinner
Rory McIroy stopped Twittering for a bit recently and took time to write an essay for Sports Illustrated. While we normally get Rory’s daily life announced to us in blurbs of 140 characters or less, the essay gave us a bit more of Rory’s perspective on his life.
Like many of us recently, right out of the gate Rory takes his shots at Tiger Woods. “But Tiger is not playing as well as he was even a couple of years ago, never mind going back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when he was at his best. I’m not sure we are going to see him dominate again the way he did. He never seemed like he would make a mistake.”
“It’s not that he’s playing badly. He’s simply playing badly by Tiger’s standards. He’s playing like an ordinary golfer. People expect more of him because of what he has achieved. As much as I would love to have the success that Tiger has had on the golf course, I wouldn’t want to live his life.”
Now, on its face that’s not an earth shattering assault on Tiger. Indeed it would be a miracle if we ever saw Tiger or any golfer return to his form of 2000. That was a once in a lifetime run, much like Bobby Jones and the Grand Slam. The odds are that we won’t see that kind of domination from any golfer. But Tiger is everyone’s punching bag right now. It’s easy to kick him while he’s down; I’ve taken my share of shots at Woods as we all have but Rory opens himself up for shots here also.
I will not defend Woods here, his lifestyle is certainly defenseless, but I will defend his commitment to winning. When Rory says,” As much as I would love to have the success that Tiger has had on the golf course,” stop there Rory, you needn’t worry about that. He goes on,” If I earn the No. 1 ranking, it would be important to remember where I am from and to stay loyal to my roots in Belfast.” Hold on there Rory, you have a long way to go before you have to worry about buying a celebratory round for all your mates in Belfast.
When McIlroy won on the Euro Tour in 2009 as a twenty year old he was christened The Celtic Tiger. After he ran away from the field at the 2010 Quail Hollow Championship there was talk that he had the game to dominate tournaments, become The Man to beat and pull down a few majors. Well that hasn’t happened, not even close.
Tiger and Rory may have similar golfing skills, as Rory says now that Tiger is playing like an ordinary golfer. But there is a major difference Tiger and Rory here: motivation. There are few athletes that train as hard as Tiger. There is only one golfer that practices as much as Tiger and that’s not Rory, it’s Vijay Singh. When Rory is twittering about his Chinese food selections, Woods is on the range. While Rory is hanging with his mates at the pub, Tiger is rebuilding his swing. Tiger is still chasing down Jack Nicklaus. Rory is channeling Anthony Kim: all the talent in the world, none of the motivation.
When Rory says he’s playing on The European Tour and not as a member on the PGA Tour in America that’s not a slap at the PGA Tour it’s a statement on Rory himself. He’s comfortable. He’s comfortable with his millions, his home, his cars and his top ten world ranking. As he says he can still go to the cinema and the pubs and not have to deal with that “Rock Star” hassle. He’s right and he won’t have to worry about it anytime soon.
If you are comfortable as an athlete and not working on getting better every day you are slipping backwards. Sure, Woods is still suffering from his self-inflicted wounds both on and off the course. But what’s your excuse Rory? McIlroy touches upon his flaw in his article “At the end of my career I want to be able to say I always gave 100 percent. I didn’t do that last season. You know, like when you’re teeing off on a Sunday morning and don’t have a chance to win, sometimes I find it hard to get motivated”
He finds it hard to get motivated. Great champions always find a way to stay motivated. McIlroy can tweet and pen all the essays he wants but he would do better to channel less party boy like Anthony Kim and act more like a dedicated, motivated professional. Maybe then he’ll have a chance at winning a major and fulfilling his professional potential.