by Jeff Skinner
It was a weekend of highs and lows for those that play this game of golf. Michael Thompson and Stacy Lewis felt the high and exhilaration that comes with winning on their respective tours. Tiger Woods experienced for him the most painful of woes: being mediocre. And World Number One Rory McIlroy has to be feeling the most strange and unfamiliar of lows.
McIlroy has lived through one of the most difficult experiences in professional golf, squandering a big lead at a major, when he imploded at 2011 The Masters. But Rory proved his mettle when he came back to win the U.S. Open by eight shots latter that season.
That has to be feeling like it was a different lifetime for the 23 year old Northern Irishman now. With his suspiciously explained walk off at The Honda Classic he appears to be a frustrated and baffled young man.
The goldfish bowl that surrounds the best player in the world can be overwhelming at times and McIlroy’s status and popularity have placed him in the brightest of spotlights. And when a player of his standing walks off, essentially quits the game in mid-round the pressure increases exponentially.
Jack Nicklaus went on NBC on Sunday and chimed in on McIlroy who he has mentored recently. “He shouldn’t have walked off,” Nicklaus said. “If he had thought about it for 5 minutes, he wouldn’t have done it. … He’s a good kid. And he tries to do the right thing.”
Jack’s probably right. If his agent or his dad had a minute to talk to him before he packed up and headed to his car he may have seen how wrong his quitting would have been. Maybe if he had a chance to take a breath he would have turned around, finished his round, missed the cut and then headed home.
His “walkoff” has added a public relations burden to his already confused psyche. Not only does he have to deal with a swing that won’t cooperate and with new clubs that don’t respond now he has to right this wrong. And indeed it was wrong.
However, it is not the end of the world for young McIlroy. Remember a young Bobby Jones packed it in at St. Andrews when he played it for the first time. At the 1921 Open Championship Jones failed to get out of a bunker on the 11th hole and he exploded in frustration and walked off the course. It was sacrilege at the time but Jones rebounded to become the greatest golfer of his era and a beloved son of St. Andrews.
So, all is not lost for Rory. There must be a million thoughts going through his curly haired head. And what 23 year old doesn’t make mistakes of one kind or another. Unfortunately for Rory his mistakes come on a fairly big stage in front of millions.
Rory will speak to the press tomorrow and try to explain his actions at The Honda. So far we have been treated to a genuine, honest, humorous and humble young man each time he addresses the media and I hope that this experience will not change that. We have to hope that McIlroy remains the kind of superstar he has been and not change into a player that views the media and fans as an intrusion.
Jack Nicklaus was right; he needed a moment to think about it and reacted too impetuously. And he’s also correct when he says that Rory tries to do the right thing. This is Rory’s chance to do the right thing, be his open and honest self.