I am always amazed when a PGA Tour professional is somehow able to lap the field in a tournament, but particularly in a major. Written off by most of the golf media as distracted, disengaged or whatever, Rory McIlroy not only proved all the naysayers wrong, but put on an exhibition of scoring that left all the other guys in his wake. When you think about the fact that he beat the next best guys in the field by an average of 2 shots a day . . . well, with the talent pool as deep and wide as it is these days, that is just amazing.
But as impressive as the golf was, what really got me more about Rory McIlroy was how much fun he looked like he was having. I mean this kid had a smile across his face as big as the Atlantic. It sure seemed to me like he wasn’t just trying to win a golf tournament, but he was enjoying every inch of the ride. And that huge ear-to-ear smile when that last putt dropped was priceless.
He didn’t seem to be moved by the fact that he had buried his competition. His reaction wasn’t a fist-pumping in-your-face emphasis on the victory; no, to me he looked like any fresh-faced kid who just had the most joyful experience of his life. And that made me smile big, too. In a day when it appears a lot of sports victories are a little on the “mean” side . . . even in our own gentlemanly game . . . it was really refreshing for me to see the sheer exultation in Rory McIlroy’s smile and his eyes.
So what can we take from all this? Maybe that this game we play is supposed to be F-U-N. Regardless of how bad any round might get, it’s still a game, right? I’m as guilty as the next guy of being too hard on myself when shots don’t do what I think they should. When drives find the rough, or I skink an approach, chunk a pitch or miss a short putt. But geez, it’s a game. And a damn hard one at that. Bad shots are always going to outnumber the good. Even Ben Hogan said he only hit 2-3 shots a round just like he wanted to.
If we stop to think that the best players in the world miss more than a third of the fairways with their drives, only hit two out of three greens with their approaches, and don’t make every putt, it kind of puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it? Or at least it should.
My hat’s off to Rory McIlroy this week. I’m glad he did it. I’m glad he is back on top, because I think he’s good for golf at all levels. A classy kid, who’s also having a helluva time in life, enjoying the fruits of his hard work on his golf game. Let him enjoy a romance with a tennis star. Let him live life a bit. After all, it’s just a game, even if it is his livelihood and a way to put his name in the history books.
To his mother and dad, he’s still just little mop-headed Rory. And that’s just fine.