I’ll never understand the McIlroy hate

John Craven

Rory McIlroy (Logan Whitton/USGA)

John Craven

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Whats that old phrase – opinions are like arseholes, some are better than othersSome people believe the worlds flat, that man never stepped foot on the moon, that climate change is a hoax and pineapple shouldnt go on pizza. Still, like the late Anthony Bourdain, I try to be open to a world where I may not agree with or understand the person sitting next to me, but Ill have a drink with them anyway. Its why I engage in debates around Rory McIlroy with fellow golf fans. Why I try to get a sense of what it is theyre seeing that Im not. Try as I might, I come away from these conversations steadfast in my opinion:

Ill never understand the McIlroy hate.

Still trying to wrap my head around what happened at Pinehurst a week later, Ive found myself festering in the sewers of Twitter where sadists salivate over McIlroys misery. And while it might seem counterproductive to drag his name up again as he takes a break from the game, I write safe in the knowledge that Rory wont be scrolling the internet any time soon. At least I hope not. For his sake.

Its a sad world we live in where sports stars swerve social media for self-preservation but after what Ive seen, youd hardly blame them. Dont worry, I wont dredge the slimy canal of the shopping trolley full of nasty comments but there was one prized gobshite worth highlighting. A fella who declared Bryson DeChambeau to be everything thats right with golf today, and McIlroy to be all thats wrong with it.

Now I know I shouldnt bite but this lad soured me something shocking. But before I fired back, I took a breath, summoned my inner Mr. Miyagi and tried to put myself in his shoes.

Stepping back, I can see how McIlroy divides opinion. Hes held strong starting positions on everything from the Olympics and Ryder Cup to LIV Golf and Saudi, and on almost every issue hes relaxed his stance. Some would smear him a hypocrite. Others as someone unafraid to speak his mind while being open to conversations with people who could change it. But to say hes everything thats wrong with golf today? If anything, hes the glue that holds it all together.

See, as sportingly horrific as this latest chapter in McIlroys Major saga proved to be, its also the ultimate page turner for Troon. This is a story of a career with prodigious beginnings, where a seemingly infallible heir to Tigers throne beat all around him before running into his most cantankerous adversary – himself.

I get why LIV supporters claim DeChambeaus about to move the needle in their favour but try as he might, the Mad Scientists magnetic pull will prove no match for McIlroys next Major outing as fans tune in to see how he copes with the pressure, should he contend at The Open.

Sure therell be those who tune in just to spite him. The same sods who labelled McIlroy classless for ejecting from Pinehurst before the media could feast on his carcass. The kind of classy people who chanted U.S.A U.S.Awhen he missed his 72nd hole putt.

Was McIlroy wrong to bolt before congratulating DeChambeau? Possibly, but when Bryson made the putt, Ill bet thats as close as I ever come to seeing a persons beating heart ripped from their chest. And in that moment you can be sure McIlroy didnt think about handshakes. Or Bryson. Or pointless Q&As. He considered nothing but ten years of pain. How close he came to ending it. How cruel this game can be that he finds himself back at the starting line of a seemingly endless soul search, asking himself the same old questions that he doesnt have the answers to.

Even if it was a little petulant. Even if it was a mistake. What some see as a flaw, I see as vulnerability. And both are the genuine human responses of a man who suffered a brutal humiliation hes not used to. One, like all true champions, hell instantly want to forget.

The only way he gets over this one is to finally put the scar tissue to use. Accept that no embarrassment can come greater than his U.S. Open collapse and somehow release himself from his own crippling overthinking.

Can that happen at Troon? Of course it can, but Im not buying the comparisons with how 21-year old Rory bounced back from a similar crumble at the Masters in 2011 with a first Major victory at the next time of asking. An ocean of water has passed under the bridge since. Hes a different player. A totally different person. But one thing remains true, from 2011 to today – hes resilient. Buoyant enough to come up for air just when it looks like hes about to sink. Fearless enough to fail with the whole world watching. Knowing now more than ever that theres no hiding place in golf. Especially when youre chasing your greatest triumph yet.

Now tell me, what sort of sports fan actively cheers against that?

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