OpinionTuesday, March 4, 2014
Rory McIlroy back on track
One of Rory McIlroy’s most attractive traits is refreshing honesty. No excuses, no hiding behind words, just the plain unvarnished truth. Moments after one of the most disappointing afternoons in his career, losing the Honda Classic in a four-man sudden-death playoff, he stated something few in that position would have been willing to verbalize.
“I was fortunate that I was in the playoff,” the former world number one said. “But 74 (Sunday’s final round) wasn’t good enough to get the job done. You know, even if I had won, it would have felt a little bit undeserved in a way.
“When you go out with a two-shot lead, you have to play well and you have to go out and win the thing. If I’d won today, I would have counted myself very lucky.”
McIlroy’s frank acceptance of the bitter outcome would have been uplifting at any time; but for the 24-year old Irishman this was far from any regular event.
This was to have been his gala comeback, his return to the course where his wheels had come off a year earlier, where he’d walked off in disgust and excuses, but where he’d now led the field for over three hand a half rounds, victory seemingly certain and destined.
He allowed a jam-packed but headed for second-place group back into the title hunt when he three-putted the 13th, further exacerbating the situation when he miscued a fairway bunker recovery at the 16th into water for double-bogey. Yet McIlroy seemed to have resolved everything with a sensational approach to the par-five finishing hole.
What could so easily have been the winning shot was a hold-off 5-wood from 245 yards into a right-to-left breeze, landing the ball gently just 15 feet from the flagstick, McIlroy’s target an unsighted back portion of the green, about the size of a small family living room, guarded by water right and beyond.
Few golfers in the world have the combined talent and nerve to even contemplate such a shot at that late stage in the contest, far less the technical ability to pull it off. Yet reviewing his entire back-nine performance, McIlroy paid scant attention to what many considered shot of the week.
“I was having trouble with these little hold-up shots and I was just losing them left,” he explained. “Body was stopping and club was getting past my body. Ironic the cut shot that I needed, I hit at the last and obviously had a putt to win the tournament and didn’t quite make it. So I just need to pick myself up and get back at it, go down to Doral and try and put myself in position to win again and see if I can do a better job.”
The upcoming WGC Cadillac Championship in Miami at the recently revamped Blue Monster, with new water seemingly added to just about every hole, is the ideal repeat offering for McIlroy to prove he has fully recovered his winner instinct.