In what has become something of an annual tradition, Sunday Independent columnist Paul Kimmage sat down with Rory McIlroy for a lengthy feature interview, but this time Kimmage sat down separately with Shane Lowry and the trades off their answers to various questions as though the two were sitting side-by-side.
It’s an interesting tactic, allowing both men to give answers without being influenced by the other and as well as unveiling some of the behind-the-scenes Ryder Cup goings on, offered a rare glimpse into the void that had been created by Rory’s ill-tempered split with management company Horizon back in 2014.
Despite being a former professional athlete himself, even going so far as to write a column whilst competing in arguably the most gruelling sporting contest of them all, the Tour de France, Kimmage seems to find McIroy’s literacy baffling. Shortly after their first sit down in 2017, Kimmage appeared on Newstalk’s Off The Ball Sunday Paper review and revealed that he was astounded to find out that Rory had read Wright Thompson’s lengthy Tiger Woods article on ESPN. For those that don’t recall, it was the first in-depth delve into Woods the man as opposed to Woods the golfer, and it was as compelling as it was groundbreaking. I read it, and I’m sure most reading this also did, but that Rory McIlroy, a self-confessed golfing nerd for whom Woods had been an idol, had also read it took Kimmage by complete surprise.
Six years on, it was McIlroy’s claims that he’d been reading the teachings of former Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ during the Ryder Cup that he had trouble grasping. “I was hoping you’d call bullshit on that,” he told Shane Lowry, when producing a copy of the book when he sat face-to-face with the Offaly man three days prior to following suit with McIlroy. No joy though, as Lowry confirmed that McIlroy had shown him some quotes in Rome and Rory doubled down by insisting that he had read Meditations and though he didn’t actually have it with him in Rome, had pages bookmarked and returned to them, particularly in the wake of the Saturday evening bust up with Patrick Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava and later, Justin Thomas’ caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay.
Whilst I find it personally interesting that Kimmage is so personally interested in McIlroy’s reading habits, that McIlroy had called Cantlay ‘a dick’ when talking to Portrush born Ricky Elliot who carries the bag for Brooks Koepka, and further told Kimmage that Cantlay and his relationship was “average at best” and that they “see the quite differently” is what will grab the headlines, and unsurprisingly so. Golfers rarely tend to dole out anything other than platitudes in public, so kudos there, especially since it was Cantlay, as appetising as a four-day old salad, who was on the receiving end.
But the most interesting revelation, as far as I’m concerned, was how McIlroy and Lowry’s relationships had soured almost a decade ago. I recall meeting both on a night out in Dublin around Christmas in 2010. It was in the middle of the extended cold spell, roads were icy, public transport was off, and few taxis were in operation, so even Flannery’s and Coppers – they were proper Culchies like myself – were nearly empty. Rory was fast becoming a star, a PGA Tour winner, and being diminutive with the distinctive mop of curly hair, he was easily recognised, particularly in the sparsely populated bars. Lowry, on the other hand, despite famously winning the Irish Open as an amateur at Baltray, flew under the radar. Prior to growing what’s now become his trademark beard, he blended in and only the golfing nerds like myself and one of my companions on the night spotted him.
Out of mild curiosity, for a few minutes I watched them converse, laugh, and their ease in each other’s company made it clear that they were close friends, not just two people who happened to play the same sport and compete under the same banner. Lowry may have claimed that he was closer to Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Gary Murphy around that time, and that he didn’t know McIlroy had a wild side, but they were thick as thieves that night.
McIlroy had once been so close to Graeme McDowell that he recalled bursting into tears of joy when ‘G-Mac’ sank the winning putt at the 2010 US Open, but their fallout in the wake of Rory’s decision to drop the management company was well-publicised and seemingly final. Neither appeared at the other’s wedding and, as a shareholder in Horizon, the two effectively became involved in litigation against the other. But that McIlroy and Lowry had grown apart as a result came as news to me.
Lowry recalled a pre-Dunhill Links Championship practice round in Carnoustie where he waited in the clubhouse until McIlroy had teed off before coming out, just to avoid an awkward run in. Thankfully, the bridges have been rebuilt and both men credit the other as being a positive influence both on and off the course.
And Irish golf is all the better for it.
And I won’t lie, I can’t wait for next week’s part II.