I tuned in late to the Masters last night, long after Rory McIlroy (right) had blown his four-shot lead at the start of the day, but just in time to watch Rory disintegrate in considerable style as he took the long way home, hacking his way through the undergrowth of the more remote parts of Augusta’s back nine. Commiserations to Rory, although it’s hard to feel truly sorry for him - if you’re good enough to establish a four-shot lead going into the last day of the Masters, then you’re good, period.Later that day, as McIlroy talked about his meltdown, grinning and bearing it, I along with thousands of others tweeted a message to Rory McIlroy, the Beckett-inspired, ‘Fail, fail again, fail better.’
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At the time, Rory was a shot clear of a chasing pack which included Tiger Woods, and such competition brings with it its own pressures. Ultimately, though, he wasn’t competing against anyone but himself. He was competing with the limits of his skill, his facility for grace under pressure, his ability to keep his inner demons at bay whilst maintaining an outward façade of calm efficiency.
In the end, Rory lost his battle with himself, which will probably be the most disappointing thing for him when he wakes up this morning. To be beaten by a better golfer is one thing, and nothing to be ashamed of. To be beaten by yourself, though, sabotaged from within, that’s a whole different issue.
Fast-forward to yesterday. You’ll probably know by now that Rory McIlroy, at the grand old age of 22, won the US Open by a remarkable eight shots, in a style not seen since Bobby Jones in 1923, in the process setting all kinds of records. Yes, it’s only a game of golf; but as a feel-good story, and particularly a metaphor for taking on all comers, including yourself and those twin impostors triumph and disaster, Rory McIlroy’s rehabilitation and redemption will be hard to beat this year.
On occasion I tend to refer to the Irish crime writers who hail from the other side of the Border as the Norn Iron bunch. As of this morning, courtesy of Rory McIlroy’s extraordinary talent and irrepressible will, ‘Norn Iron’ takes on a whole new dimension.