How do you judge a person’s ability, especially if that person is already a superstar, someone as talented as Rory McIlroy?
Time will ultimately determine McIlroy’s status in the game, but after a sterling amateur career and two early major championships and a massive blip last year, why are we still guilty of comparing him too closely to the greatest competitor the game of golf has ever seen, Tiger Woods?
Why can’t we leave him alone or even focus our attention more on the world’s number one golfer Adam Scott or even the current US Open champion Martin Kaymer?
The reason is simple. McIlroy fascinates us! Unlike Tiger he is refreshingly honest and quite happy on social media. He does not live his life in the cocoon environment that Tiger frequented for most of his formative years. Instead, he is determined to live his life to the full, looking to fulfil his ambitions both on and off the course and in the process allowing us to witness and judge his frailties.
The past couple of years since his last win in a major championship have been tough for McIlroy. In that time he has made many mistakes, most of which are his own, but he has always manfully owned up to them – the cancellation of his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki, his contract dispute with his former management company Horizon Sports and most importantly for Rory McIlroy the golfer, his humiliating season last year.
This year I have been impressed by his determination to redress his golfing career. For example, he has quite noticeably fewer distractions around him, he’s not on social media, he’s playing a better golf schedule and most importantly, he is working hard on his game once again.
What we know best about McIlroy is that he is a supremely talented striker of a golf ball with few or any peers in today’s game. The manner of his two eight-shot major championship victories also proves his comfort in performing at the very highest level, though it’s his inconsistency, at times, that beggars belief. For example, why is he statistically the best performer on the opening day on the PGA Tour only to be ranked near the very worst for his second round? How can his mindset change so dramatically in just 24 hours?
Yesterday at Hoylake there was only one person to talk about once McIlroy produced a round of effortless quality. 66 hopefully now represents a statement of his intent for the rest of the tournament. While his opposition will have noted his score, McIlroy is now controlling his own destiny.
Behind him are other winners of major championships and some of the hardest golf competitors the game has ever seen. They understand what’s required to win in the heat of battle. And though less talented than McIlroy, they are proven. They will make the right decisions and will simply do what is required to win the tournament.
What’s imperative now is that McIlroy maintains the right game plan balance that keeps him in contention and most importantly, in the right frame of mind. That means giving himself as many opportunities as possible to convert birdie putts. Now is the time for his caddie JP Fitzgerald to help him deliver a winning formula of controlled aggression that keeps both the scoreboard ticking over and his competitors at bay.
Today, it seems, may well be a defining day for one young McIlroy. If he plays to his ability he will pass the test with flying colours and it may well lay the foundation for the third leg of an elusive Grand Slam of major championships.
McIlroy was born for this test and regardless of the outcome we can continue to expect to see this mercurial talent wear his heart on his sleeve and in the process remain refreshingly honest and for that, we have to salute him.
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