Rory McIlroy has admitted he was more emotional and overwhelmed by the support he received at Portrush last week than missing the cut at the Open Championship. He said last night it was the first time he had to stop himself crying on a golf course.
“I didn’t think I meant that much to people,” he revealed in Memphis ahead of Thursday’s WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational, adding: “I realised they mean more to me than I thought, so it went both ways. I had to stop myself crying about four times on the back nine on Friday, not because of the situation I found myself in (cut-wise) but because of the support. It sounded like a Sunday. I had to take a step back and say ‘wow, I sort of mean a lot to these people, and it felt really good.”
He added: “It is such a weird thing to say but to talk about a missed cut being one of the best experiences you have ever had on a golf course… So I guess there is some sort of silver lining in there somewhere.”
McIlroy admitted that he had learned a lot in the four majors this year – and not just at Portrush.
Trying to downplay them as ‘just another tournament’ was an approach that had not worked and required reassessment, he admitted. “I almost tried to downplay the majors, like they are every other event, but they are not. You need to treat them differently, have a certain mindset. It’s a strategy that didn’t work for me, so I’ll have to reassess.
"Sometimes I try to take the emotion out of golf and treat it very stoically, be very logical about the whole thing. (But) I was emotional on Friday at the Open Championship and I was still able to play good golf. That was a good lesson as well,” he told media.
A bit of emotion of the course isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was the standing ovations I was getting on the greens, and from greens to tees that really hit me.
McIlroy admitted he had second thoughts about hitting iron on that fatal first hole on Thursday when he racked up a quadruple bogey eight after going out of bounds. He knew there was something amiss when he tried to put the tee in the ground.
“I was so relaxed in the warm up and on the putting green ten minutes before (going out). But once I was announced and put my tee in the ground, I noticed my hands trembling and thought ‘this is different’. I should have hit driver, instead of hitting an iron.
"Sub consciously I knew I was uncomfortable, and I said it to (caddie Harry Diamond) who told me: ‘Why would you want to hit different? I thought I was totally fine, but when my name was announced, it was different.”
McIlroy said Shane Lowry’s win was the fairytale ending the Open deserved. “They didn’t put a foot wrong. It was a great showcase for our country, and I am hoping the Open will be back to Portrush in next eight to ten years.”
McIlroy added that he plans to have dinner with Lowry in New York shortly when the duo can properly reflect on a week that changed the Offaly man’s life.