McIlroy’s slow-burner sit-down catches fire in part two

Mark McGowan
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Rory McIlroy (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

This week, The Sunday Independent published part two of columnist Paul Kimmage’s lengthy sit-down interview with Rory McIlroy and, not to totally dismiss the first segment, the second instalment was box office in comparison.

Of course, only a small subset of the ‘Sindo’ readership will be the kind of golfing zealot who gleaned little new from part one, but even those of us with an unhealthy obsession with the inside story of the professional were forced to sit up and take note this week.

The first revelation was how McIlroy’s ball – The TaylorMade TP5 – had been adversely affecting his game. I’ve long argued that equipment deals can be something of a poisoned chalice at the upper echelons of golf, and here is the player widely considered the most talented of his generation admitting that it took a practice round at Augusta National and hitting Prov1s on the range to convince him to make a ball switch.

There’s a little scope for confusion when Kimmage asks if Rory’s compelled to use the TP5, because the resulting “no” doesn’t mean that McIlroy can put a ProV1 in play, but he was free to move within TaylorMade’s range, and fortunately for him, the TP5x seemed much better suited. When the sample size is large enough, numbers don’t lie, and McIlroy went from being ranked 207th to first on the PGA Tour from inside 125 yards with the new ball – ironically, TaylorMade’s old ball – in the bag.

With all the public squabbling that’s gone on between the PGA Tour and LIV – and with the Holywood man very much to the fore for the former – that McIlroy had reached out to Greg Norman earlier in the year with an olive branch of sorts was a startling revelation given the personal nature of some of the barbs thrown in the The Shark’s direction.

Now, I’m no fan of what Greg Norman the person, nor of his personal vendetta against the PGA Tour, but McIlroy’s resolve to make it his business “to be as much of a pain in his arse as possible” shows a vindictive side to McIlroy’s character that few have seen previously.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, and it’s certainly been to the PGA and DP World Tour’s benefits, and perhaps to McIlroy professionally as well, but if, as Rory contends, Norman’s assertion that Rory had been “brainwashed by the PGA Tour” appeared in the Washington Post just weeks later, there is the chance that those comments were made prior to the bridges being somewhat mended.

It would’ve been interesting to see Kimmage float that possibility and McIlroy’s subsequent reaction, but, regardless, it added considerable contextual layering to the recent calls for the Australian to be shown the door by LIV.

Finally, and at least for me, most astonishingly, was the divulgence that Tiger Woods had reached out offering to assist with Rory’s wedge play. That the post-scandal Tiger is markedly more open and approachable is no secret, but that he’d actively seek out one of the game’s superstars to offer help was more than just eye-opening, it was both heart-warming and bittersweet.

Heart-warming because, softened as the new Woods may be, he’s not reaching out to just anybody. In Rory, he sees his natural successor, and far and away golf’s strongest asset. Golf has been great to Tiger, and though it cost him any kind of normal private life, his love for it runs deep, and a successful McIlroy is great for the sport.

But it’s bittersweet because, as much as Woods pays lip service to the belief that he can win major number 16, this is effectively an admission that he cannot. Because if he genuinely believed that he could, that competitive edge would prohibit him from adding additional weapons to the armoury of one of his strongest rivals.

Kimmage dubs McIlroy ‘The Chosen One’s Chosen One,’ and its hard to argue with that assessment. Just like Tiger, when he speaks, the world listens.

I can’t think of many others to whom that applies.

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