by Jeff Skinner
One thing is for certain at The Masters: those green jackets sure know how to run a tournament and throw one heck of a party. The 75th Anniversary Masters was one of the best major championships in recent memory. It had everything a big Hollywood production calls for. It had drama, suspense, big name headliners, bit players, surprises, winners and of course losers.
Charl Schwartzel turned out to be the hero and winner of this crazy drama that played out over Augusta National. Some may label Rory McIlroy the loser, but in reality he is anything but.
For the first three rounds McIlroy got top billing as he led the Masters and displayed a game and a demeanor that belied his young age. The 21 year old carried himself with a confidence on the course and an openness in the media center that convinced many that this could be his time. He said he knew he would be nervous on the first tee and that it would not be normal if he wasn’t. Unfortunately, his nerves and anxiety may have got the best of him during the final round.
All week he had worked his way around the course with a smile while sharing laughs with Rickie Fowler and Jason Day. He also worked the media center fairly well answering all questions with thoughtful and honest answers. It was his maturity as much as his golf game that impressed.
After he bogeyed the first hole on Sunday he walked off the green with his head down. It was the first time I had seen the top of his head all week. He had strode around Augusta with a laid back, relaxed attitude that could have been an imitation of Fred Couples. With his head down and his psyche damaged it was the first sign that Rory had felt the pressure of leading a major.
With wayward shots on 10, 11 and 12 he lost six strokes to par and any chance at winning. It was all he could do to finish out on his way to shooting 80. Some players might have bolted from the course and avoided the media that had to ask the tough questions. But not McIlroy, he stood there and answered the difficult questions. Asked about his collapse he said, “I think it’s a Sunday at a major, what it can do. This is my first experience at it, and hopefully the next time I’m in this position I’ll be able to handle it a little better. I didn’t handle it particularly well today, obviously, but it was a character-building day, put it that way. I’ll come out stronger for it.”
He even smiled a bit while the media quizzed him. That’s the kind of kid he is. This surely will pass and McIlroy will be back at another major soon enough. He’ll just take a bit of time and maybe a few pints to ease the pain of this one.