“When a defining moment comes along, you can do one of two things. Define the moment, or let the moment define you.”
Those were the words of Roy McAvoy, aka Tin Cup, played by Kevin Costner in the 1996 movie of the same name, and as we gear up for the US Open, the event that Costner’s character described as the “biggest” and “most democratic” in the world, golf has seldom needed a defining moment more.
The USGA may not have gotten their hands dirty in the controversial PGA, PIF, DP World and LIV tour mergers last week, but the entire ordeal has left a sour taste in the mouths of most golf fans and it’s their misfortune that the US Open takes place under the cloud of uncertainty and unrest that the merger has created.
That being said, this is Hollywood, or as good as, and as we all know, Hollywood endings make for incredible storylines. Okay, so there may not be any beer-swilling, Winnebago dwelling, West Texas driving range pros in the field this week, especially not those whose main intention is to steal the girlfriend of one of the Tour’s top stars – more’s the pity, really – but the time has come for one man to step up and define the moment.
Alliterative aspects of their names aside, Rory McIlroy might be as far from Roy McAvoy as they come. Even with the Saudi millions with which Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson etc have recently bolstered their already fat bank accounts, McIlroy’s wealth and commercial value supersedes them all, so there’d be no rags to riches angle to a Rory win at L.A. Country Club. He’ll not be dining in the Waffle House, no snoring Harry Diamond sleeping on the Winnebago floor, and hopefully, no stripper ex-girlfriend of Rory’s curled up next to his caddie.
Tin Cup didn’t have the classic Hollywood ending. As anybody who’s seen the movie knows, Roy McAvoy didn’t walk away with the US Open trophy. Peter Jacobsen did, incidentally, not due to his stature in the game, more due to the fact that Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Lee Janzen, Craig Stadler, Johnny Miller and the other big-name professional golfers to make cameo appearances were unavailable on the days that the final scenes were being shot.
Instead, ‘Tin Cup’ stuck five balls in the water on the last hole, defiantly trying to prove that he could clear the hazard to make eagle and set a scoring record that “even Jack Nicklaus” hadn’t managed when laying up and making birdie the old-fashioned way would’ve been enough to win the tournament. But what he did walk away with was the adulation of the crowd, the knowledge that he’d been true to himself, and with Molly, played by Renne Russo, on his arm.
McIlroy is guaranteed the adulation of the crowd, whatever happens at L.A. Country Club, and by standing up for the PGA Tour, standing up for tradition and standing up for the values of the game, he’s been true to himself. Plus, he already has a wife and child.
Heroic defeat is not an option, because when you’ve been as successful as McIlroy has, winning is the only thing that counts. And by that definition, for almost a decade, Rory hasn’t counted at the events that matter most.
With the events of the past week, with the PGA Tour selling out its non-profit ethos and getting into bed with one of the world’s most controversial regimes in the world, with the US Senate saying serious questions have to be answered about the proposed merger, and with Jay Monahan in turn blaming the US government for forcing them into a pact with the Saudis, we’ve clearly reached a defining moment off the course and we’re in desperate need for a defining moment on it.
And where better than Hollywood?
The only question that remains is can Rory define the moment or will the moment define him?