There comes a time in all our lives when we’re faced with a crossroads. Be it choosing one sport over another in school, one course over another in college or whether to take the plunge into 9-5 living over travelling the world or chasing your dreams, we’ve all been told to pick a side eventually.
Which side you fall on, however, should never come with an obligation, a permanency, nor should it define you. No matter how great your success or substantial your bank balance, if that side’s not fulfilling you then only you will know. With one shot at life in this fast paced world of opportunity, you’d be foolish not to choose another path if the one paved currently is doing little for your ankles.
Rory McIlroy turned a few heads last week when he said that there’s more important things in life than golf. Imagine a twenty-nine year old newly-married multi-millionaire global star spouting such preposterous notions. Yet for anyone who’s followed his career closely, his admission would have come as no surprise.
McIlroy was born with a gift that few have ever possessed but as Dermot Gilleece said when quoting Lee Trevino last week, ‘when God hands out gifts he never gives you everything; he always holds something back.’ In Rory’s case, it seems that the something held back is the ability to grind it out when his game is lacking; not the worst deal in the world, all things considered – especially when you’re as good as he is.
Such is the enormity of his talent, when McIlroy wins golf tournaments, he does so with ease. When all facets of his game come together as one, no other golfer on the planet can live with him; but there-in lies the problem. McIlroy has been playing golf without a putting game for the best part of three years.
There’s not a golfer alive who could muster the results of McIlroy in recent times given his putting woes. But I wouldn’t suggest that it’s a lack of fire in the belly that makes him miss; that he doesn’t care enough about the sport to make the putts fall. I would argue that McIlroy wants nothing more than to complete the career Grand Slam regardless of what’s said, and it’s not a lack of talent that’s preventing it on a golf course in Augusta that clearly suits his eye, but the six inches between his ears that have put paid to so many before him.
It’s not too late for him to rediscover what made him great; for him to find that chest-out, spring-heeled swagger that set him apart as he approached a makeable putt, but I feel it’s going to take a eureka moment that all the advice in the world couldn’t administer. It might take the birth of a first child or a break from a game that he’s clearly not enjoying, but the sweet science behind the putting stroke is only further plaguing his thoughts.
Simply put, Rory needs to find his happy place.
I firmly believe that McIlroy will one day win the Masters, and when that day comes it wouldn’t surprise me if he never won again. For me he’s too human to strive for more but that doesn’t mean he’s not striving for that final piece of the jigsaw now. He may lack an obsession with winning that made Tiger Woods so great, but give me a choice of who I’d rather share a beer with and it would be the personable McIlroy over the manufactured Woods every time.
Of course I’d love to see a lad my age from this island rewrite the record books and leave a legacy unmatched in the sport, but his hunger doesn’t seem to match his talent. That’s not a criticism, rather a reflection of a generation burdened with the privilege of choices that others lived without. But to say he doesn’t care would be false. If that was the case, his grip on that putter would loosen and the putts would finally drop.