Some years back, Paul Kimmage sat down with Rory McIlroy for an interview that would spawn a two-episode spread in the Sunday Independent, and Kimmage, appearing on Off The Ball’s Sunday Paper Review the following week was quick to praise the golfing star’s intelligence. Forgive the paraphrasing, but an admittedly quick search failed to recover the exact audio, but it went something like this “Rory mentioned the Wright Thompson piece on Tiger Woods and I asked “did you actually read it?” He said he had, and I thought “wow, we really are dealing with different class here.”
Now, I know the Thompson piece was long, and that Kimmage himself is a former professional athlete who has more exposure to the reading habits of pros than I do, but I would be a bit hesitant to go all weak at the knees for somebody who had read the same brilliantly explosive expose that countless others had also read.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to suggest that McIlroy is not intelligent, but I think there is a tendency to conflate the speaking of one’s mind with being intellectually superior. The number of times that the world number two has backtracked on a previous stance is evidence of his capacity for error in judgement. Again, this is not something for which he deserves criticism per se, for to see the error of your ways is much more desirable than a steadfast and stubborn refusal to admit to anything of the sort.
If social media has taught me anything since its inception, it’s that those who are the most willing to spout their opinions are often those who are most willing to display their ignorance. But that’s a different argument for a different day.
Rory’s latest ill-advised outburst followed hot on the heels of a near-miss for team McIlroy as he and father Gerry finished runners-up in the Pro-Am section of the Alfred Dunhill Links championship. Perhaps aggravated by the news that father and son had lost on the Pro-Am equivalent of countback, Rory criticised European Tour setups for not asking enough challenging questions of the pros.
“I’m honestly sick of coming back to Europe and shooting 15-under par and finishing 30th” said the 30-year-old, adding that the same thing had happened at the Scottish Open earlier this year. It may seem glaringly obvious, but McIlroy specifically favoured the Scottish Open as preparation for Portrush as opposed to playing Lahinch where a 15-under score line would’ve been good enough for second place.
Those with more time on their hands than I have already waded deep enough to prove that on average, the PGA Tour has lower scores than its European counterpart, but it’s the additional comments in the wake of the St. Andrews’ frustration that may be more consequential for the four-time major winner.
When McIlroy speaks, the world listens. That much we know. So his Instagram post explaining that he felt “strategy, course management and shot making” were “being slowly taken out of the game” has re-lit the fuse on the equipment/ball/bifurcation debate as courses like the Old Lady are slowly becoming obsolete.
But asking the world’s top players to vote for a roll back of ball or equipment is akin to asking Turkeys to vote for Christmas. Why would they? And to complete this analogy, there is no plumper turkey in the game than McIlroy himself. Coming off a player of the year award winning season, with almost $8 million in on course earnings, not to mention the $15 million Fed Ex Bonus, McIlroy was second only to Cameron Champ in the driving distance category.
In fact, the old adage of “taking the Tiger line” (the most aggressive line possible off the tee) has been replaced with “taking the Rory line.”
If certain whispers are to be believed, and the Green Jackets at Augusta National are seriously considering a one-for-all ball for the Masters – and let’s face it, where better to start than at a tournament that everybody wants to play in, at a venue that is beholden to nobody, and where everybody is wealthy enough that money ceases to be an object – then it could be the start of a new-era as the biggest hitters are slowly brought back to the field.
Far from a one-trick pony, McIlroy’s game is about more than raw power, but there is no doubting it’s one of his biggest advantages.
Careful what you wish for Rory. Christmas may be just around the corner.