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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 11, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

    Time very much on McIlroy’s side

    Paul Gallagher

    So where exactly does Rory McIlroy go from here? All too often, sport can deal the cruellest of blows and witnessing his final round meltdown was car crash television. Excruciatingly painful for player and supporter alike.

    Rory McIlroy and caddie JP Fitzgerald during the final round of the US Masters. Photograph: Harry How/Getty Images

    Rory McIlroy and caddie JP Fitzgerald during the final round of the US Masters. Photograph: Harry How/Getty Images

    The numbers don’t lie. Posting 80 in the final round of a major will derail anyone’s title aspirations. The manner in which he capitulated is obviously a worry, but the legacy such a round leaves and how long the scar tissue will take to heal is the main concern.

    But let’s work with the glass half full approach for a second and try to extract something positive for the young 21-year-old, who must surely be in a lonely place just now.

    Let us not forget that he led the season’s first major for three-and-a-half days. His swing held up for the first 63 holes and, if that drive on 10 been just a few yards further right we would be having different conversations around the water-coolers this afternoon.

    But sport is all about what-ifs, and lurching from one disaster to another down the 10th hole, McIlroy’s fate was sealed. Few mortals, if any, would have turned it around from there in the most pressurised nine holes in golf – the back nine on Sunday at Augusta.

    I would read little into the missed putts after the 10th, they were a consequence of what went before and should have no lasting impact. The 10th hole was where all the damage was done, and there would be no hiding place. That his meltdown took place on the biggest stage in golf simply made it all the more painful.

    “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger,” offered a disbelieving Tony McCoy watching at home. If there is any truth in such statements, then Rory McIlroy will one day benefit from the almighty hit he took last night.

    Maybe it’s time to remember how one so young closed out the deal with the imperious final round 62 at Quail Hollow. Granted, that wasn’t a major – the big four can reduce your cerebral cortex to guacamole – but it oozed class and what’s more, proof he can close out the deal.

    For that is the question he will be constantly faced with these coming weeks and months. It is one that will become tiresome, but can only be answered out on the course. 

    Critics of the youngster will argue he has form and point to the British Open at St Andrews last year when he followed up an opening 63 with a second round 80. But remember how he battled back with a 69, 68 over the weekend to tie for third.

    Others will compare his Masters demise to Greg Norman’s capitulation against Nick Faldo in 1996 – just another example of how even the world’s best can fold when it matters most.

    One curious thought was the relationship between player and caddie when McIlroy’s spiral began. How does a caddie like JP Fitzgerald get into his player’s mind and try to calm him down. Did he offer the right type of support or by this stage was there nothing could be done other than try to shepherd your man home and out of the glare?

    McIlroy has time on his side, he’s already a winner on both sides of the Atlantic and possesses one of the finest techniques in the game. 

    He left the leafy surrounds of Augusta and was quickly off to Kuala Lumpur on a private jet with ISM stablemate and US Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel. Can’t imagine how that in-flight chat will have gone, but uncomfortable situations will be a norm for McIlroy for a time.

    The manner in which he talked in the immediate aftermath of the final round spoke volumes for him as an individual. He will have gone even further up in peoples’ estimations as he took it on the chin and showed maturity way beyond his years.

    Rory McIlroy was dealt a serious blow. From here he just has to believe in himself and a win at this week’s Malaysian Open would be a fine starting point in the healing process.

    • Washgolf says:

      Rory looked nervous and uncomfortable prior to the 10th hole. The 10th may have ultimately been his undoing with regards to being in contention, but I believe that even if he had pared the hole, he still would not have won the tournament. He would have needed a 69 to win and a 70 to get into a playoff, and he didn’t look to have that in him yesterday as he clearly was not comfortable over short puts. He missed several puts less than 6 feet prior to the tenth hole. Those have to be automatic on the back nine on a Sunday. Rory is a precocious talent, but will need to get the mental side sorted out to become the great player we all know and hope he will be. Otherwise, we could have another Sergio on our hands.

    • Paul Gallagher says:

      It’s a fair point “Washgolf”. How Rory responds to this setback will be important. Hopefully he can push on and eventually put it behind him

    • GoGo Boston says:

      Let’s remember that Rory is still only 21 and has at least 21 more years of golf ahead of him. He displayed his Talent on the course and his Class off of it. Both will stand to him for years to come. The media who were adoring him until 4 pm Sunday, should give the kid a break and refrain from kicking the guy when he’s down. He’ll be back, stronger than ever, and has about 84 Majors to look forward to.

    • That was one exciting masters. I loved all the lead changes and not knowing who would win until the final holes. Rory has a lot to be proud of. I’m sure we’ll see him a lot.

    • Bogey says:

      Rory is 21. To be performing at highest level at this age in any field is brilliant. At 21 there is so much you are unsure of in life. Definitely needs to work on the putter. 3rd shot on 10 was a crazy decision. Did player over rule caddy on this?? Learn & move on. Being 21 could in fact be the best bit from this minor setback.

    • Dave says:

      Rory is an amazing golfer. “He’ll be back” but only with some better psychological preparation next time. No doubt he can win a few majors in the next few years, because he has all the skills needed to suceeed at such a high level.

      The Masters 10th: Ok his drive went into the cabins area. but the exact point I believe something happened to his thinking before the second “position” shot. But his chip out was too strong and he did not get the ball into the proper position for his third shot, as he would nearly always usually do.

      I would love to know what he was thinking before he took that third shot, as it is likely that he was having the same pre-shot negative thoughts also prior to his third shot, which also was a horrible one. Had he been working on automatic he would not have made such lousy second and third shots, This sense of sudden loss of control perhaps hit him initially after he hid the horrible drive, but was probably intensified prior to and during these second and third shots. But, all was not lost at that point, and with the use of self-correcting thoughts and/or a caddie who could assist him in that psychological way, I believe he still could have won it.

      Solution: This situation may occur again, and unless he trains well beforehand on how to cope he’ll go thru psychological meltdown yet again, and perhaps during earlier rounds if he’s not careful.

      He’s a great prospect and he seems to have the maturity to handle himself wisely in the future, so that meltdown is prevented.

    • Mike says:

      Eldrick could take a few lessons from this gracious Irish lad, far more gracious in defeat than Woods could ever be

    • ann moloney says:

      his a messer could not stand prosperity, but brash and overconfident and he will never be
      a tiger woods and his bragging about beating tiger woods left him looking like the fool that he is
      at augusta. in many ways his a symbol of the celtic tiger proud and arrogant looking down their
      noses at everyone else, but when crunch time comes he was found wanting. the irish were
      cocky arrogant until we found they over promised and under produced and are now a beggar
      nation lookin to europe and america to bail them out

    • orieldude says:

      Er… ok Ann.

      Anyway sometimes we can over-analyse these things. He looked nervy to begin with but I thought he was motoring along reasonably nicely after the 9th. I think you’re spot on highlighting the 10th. If he’d had half an hour to get over it… but you don’t get any time to clear your head in golf. These things happen, not quite as spectacularly, but they do – he’ll be ok.

    • dave says:

      ann moloney

      Sorry to disappoint you.

      1. Rory Mcilroy Is not from the country that you are slagging off. He is from Northern Ireland, and althought he may be “Irish”, more accurately, “Northern Irish” ( I know, “It’s Complicated”) he has no direct connection with the Celtic Tiger.

      2. He is not at all “cocky arrogant”. Every TV commentator made the observations that he is not cocky and brash, but ” a nice guy”, a great golfer who is mature beyond his 21 years

      I trust you were merely trying your best to be funny?

      Tough luck.

    • declan says:

      Rory is a huge talent and will be for many years to come. He did look a little tight on the first tee but we all would, this wasnt your club championship this was the Masters…..
      Maybe by the 10th hole is was a holy crap moment that he realised that he was 9 holes away from winning the Masters, every golfers dream.
      He is a tough kid showed that last week in Malaysia. He could have just shown up for the appearance money played for two days and took an early flight home. He contended to the end.
      Within the year Rory will be hoisting a major trophy.

      Declan


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