McIlroy passing the microphone is long overdue

John Craven

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

John Craven

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If you haven’t seen the film Good Will Hunting, look away now, and while you’re at it, go watch the film Good Will Hunting.

The whole thing is a masterpiece, not least for its writing, and aside from Robin Williams probing your soul every time he speaks, there’s one scene I particularly love.

It’s the one where Ben Affleck’s character, Chuckie, turns to his lifelong buddy Will on the building site to selflessly declare that as much and all as he loves his genius friend’s company, that the best part of his day is the 10 seconds from when he pulls up to Will’s house and knocks on his door; 10 seconds where he lives in hope that his best friend of monumental promise has left to go fulfil it.

It’s a bit like the way I’ve felt about Rory McIlroy and press conferences of late. Turns out this week’s Wells Fargo is my Good Will Hunting!

If you haven’t heard, please rejoice and be glad for Rory McIlroy is not on this week’s pre-tournament interview list. One of the best interviews in the sport, I must be mad as a golf writer to celebrate his absence, but I make no secret of the fact that I’m a McIlroy fan first, and a writer second, and for weeks I’ve been screaming out for the PGA Tour’s unofficial spokesman to pass the conch to somebody else so he can focus on his golf.

Now I understand that there are some sickos out there who want answers from McIlroy. The same people who bemoan the man for talking too much are demanding reasons as to why he missed out at Hilton Head.

And I get it, to a degree. After all, he helped steer the PGA Tour ship in this new direction and missing two designated events when players are only permitted to miss one isn’t a great look. Then again, he also helped build the ship, repair the holes in the vessel and ultimately avoid a LIV-sized iceberg along the way so I’m willing to give him a pass on missing Hilton Head, whatever the reason.

For what it’s worth, McIlroy told a reporter upon his return this week at Quail Hollow that he missed his second designated event for mental health reasons. That it’s been a taxing 12 months and after the Masters, he just wanted to be at home. Imagine a multimillionaire global golf superstar has human traits too?

Well frighteningly, some people can’t imagine it, so strangled by their own misery that they can’t let out a squeak of empathy for how thunderingly disappointed McIlroy must’ve felt leaving Augusta. As if just because he makes all this money from playing golf, that somehow he owes it to the rest of us to show up no matter what, or worse, that he’s not entitled to feel the way “normal people” do.

For me, there was nothing to be gained for McIlroy at Hilton Head. If he won by ten he’d be condemned for failing to produce it a week earlier, and while he couldn’t avoid the media forever, what exactly was there to be gleaned from another Q&A? The same recycled questions. The same regurgitated answers.

I don’t expect McIlroy to admit that the ghosts of Masters past still haunt him. I don’t expect him to confess that in golf terms at least, Augusta has become his be-all and end-all, even if his performances there suggest it.

McIlroy claimed to have finally shed the scar tissue in the lead up to last month’s Masters but tissue has a funny way of outing itself in the wash. It’s clear McIlroy doesn’t have the answers, even with Dr Bob Rotella, one of the greatest minds in golf, trying to help him figure it out.

What McIlroy did realise, however, was that he couldn’t face another week at Hilton Head, and I for one commend him for exercising his right to self-preservation. Even if it’s a decision getting pilloried by a bunch of martyrs who’ve apparently never called in a day in their lives.

In Good Will Hunting, there’s another line I really like. This time it’s Robin Williams playing the psychologist, Sean, and he’s talking about the little things that made his wife unique. She’d fart in her sleep. Sometimes she’d even wake herself up. “People call these things imperfections,” Williams says, “but they’re not. That’s the good stuff.”

Like the rest of us, Rory McIlroy is riddled with imperfections. Behind the money and the fame there’s a fragility that makes him somehow relatable, and all the more interesting.

He likes it around Quail Hollow by the way. He’s won here three times. The bookies make him clear favourite for a fourth. But don’t expect Rory to say ‘how’d you like them apples?’ should he win this week.

Augusta’s the girl of McIlroy’s dreams. And he still hasn’t got her number.

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