“I didn’t care,” I had said. “A glorified Hero World Challenge,” I had said. “An obscene cash grab that would be as interesting as having Enda Kenny explain finance law at length,” I had said. Yet on Sunday evening I found myself reneging on a dinner and movie promise made to my wife and instead serving up delivered pizza and four-and-a-half hours of live golf from East Lake.
How did that go down, I hear you ask? Well, the pizza was lukewarm at best, but still searing in comparison to the frosty glares I was being subjected to from the other side of my living room.
But such are the hazards of modern day fanaticism.
Sure, I could’ve switched my phone off, taken the missus out for a slap-up meal, watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as planned, and arrived home with sufficient brownie points to make the coming weekend’s All-Ireland final binge barely register on the anger-at-me-ometer.
I could’ve even recorded the final round of the Tour Championship and watched it on Monday morning – oblivious to the outcome – leaving myself plenty of time to pen my thoughts in the article you are now reading.
But it was Koepka and McIlroy.
Though I maintain that the prize money on offer is ridiculously over the top, that the handicap system is seriously flawed, and that the FedExCup itself is little more than a whore in a business suit, the prospect of seeing golf’s two alpha dogs fighting over a very large (if hollow) bone was too much to pass up.
After Koepka put McIlroy over his knee and spanked him like a bold child at the WGC in Memphis just four weeks previous, a similar mauling in Atlanta could leave psychological scars that no amount of self-help books could heal.
The 2019 Canadian Open is the outlier in what had become a string of disappointing performances from the final group on Sunday for McIlroy, with Koepka, Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Francesco Molinari among those who had taken the pocket-sized Irishman and put him, well, in their pockets.
With Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Paul Casey all well placed for a smash-and-grab, you sensed that the winner was coming from the final group regardless. McIlroy can blow hot and cold, as we well know, but surely there would be no meltdown from the Ice Man.
In a week where images from Koepka’s ESPN Magazine: The Body Issue photoshoot surfaced, a comparatively overdressed Brooks, against all odds, began to feel hot under the collar. Either that or in an attempt to give me an even colder shoulder, my wife’s reverse thermal induction sucked all the ice from the American’s veins. Either way, McIlroy got hot and the world number one lost his cool.
This week doesn’t add to McIlroy’s major tally, nor does it drastically alter his credit rating, but the soft underbelly that’s often been exposed might now have a coat of armour. But, Magnolia Lane is a long way away and that’s where the true test of his steel will take place.
Still, Mrs. McIlroy was happy, and with good reason. Mrs. McGowan on the other hand? She’ll come around, it’ll cost a hell of a lot more than dinner and a movie though.
Maybe Rory can spot me a few quid?