My first instinctive reaction to Rory McIlroy “will sound bad; I’m just looking into the motions. ”The comments at last week’s Northern Trust event were, I suspect, the same as most of the people.
Come on Rory, I thought. “You’re playing for millions of dollars. Are you so spoiled that even the silly amounts of money aren’t enough to get your competitive juices flowing? “
But, as is often the case in life, second thoughts are an improvement over their predecessors. For one thing, Rory should be commended for a level of public honesty that is almost unique among her peers. And for another, he displays that admirable trait – drilled into him early by his parents, I suspect further – even when speaking is of no benefit, tangible or otherwise, to himself.
This is how, upon further review, I was struck by how profound Rory’s comments were.
“Sometimes I go out of a green and take a little bird, and I’m kind of – you know, you’re laughing coming out of a hole you just messed up, and you make a little bird and it’s almost a more negative emotion in some ways,” he explained. McIlroy, the reigning FedEx Cup champion who enters this week’s penultimate playoff event in Chicago in 12th place on the leaderboard. “It’s weird. It’s very weird. I want to get an intensity and a kind of fire, but I haven’t been able to do it. This has partly to do with the atmosphere and partly to do with how I’m playing. I’m not inspiring myself and I’m trying to get inspiration from outside sources to get something. “
In fact, all of this is hard to achieve when hardly anyone is watching live. Like any golfer, Rory has a certain kind of privacy that no one else knows about. Because we only see the result of his shots. But he knows when the shot is better than the result. And he knows when the result is better than the shot. It is one of the best aspects of the game, something that great players certainly understand perfectly. If Tiger Woods was listening while Rory spoke, I bet he was nodding.
But that’s Rory’s problem. He’s not looking for anyone’s favor. He’s not trying to tell anyone something they want to hear. Instead, think out loud. Understandably, he is appalled at the strange world he is currently spending his professional life in. He is appalled by the lack of atmosphere and spectators. He was the only person on the field ready to say that what everyone has been doing in the last few weeks is not true professional golf. It just isn’t. They are the people who play golf in their clubs. It is the monthly medal. And he was brave enough to say it for the whole world to hear.
In other words, Rory acted like the normal person he is, outside of his extraordinary talent with a golf club in his hands. But, like everyone else at the end of the game, that normality is seen as sluggish. Or a sign of weakness. Even lazy. Society doesn’t want to hear the stars talk like they are all of us. Nowadays, success should come to those who work the hardest. Which, at least in golf, misses the point.
For this, McIlroy can “blame” his friend Tiger Woods. Because he performed better than anyone else in so many areas of the game, the 15-time senior champion raised the “standards”. In golf, no one has ever been like Tiger. He has a unique and relentless desire. No one else has ever wanted “this” as much as he did. Or all the time. Jack Nicklaus was also unable to maintain Tiger’s intensity level. Jack was basically a part-timer when he won his last two or three majors.
So we shouldn’t be surprised at what Rory had to say. He is a normal human being. It’s not like Tiger. No one is or was. Former world number 1 Greg Norman, for example. It was the same as Rory. Once Greg was done, he was done. But Tiger changed everything. He and Michael Jordan came and said, at least with their actions, that you have to work harder than everyone else. Because that’s what they do / have done.
But wait. It does not make sense. You just have to do it more than anyone else. Which isn’t necessarily the same as working harder.
Golf only becomes a job when it gets difficult. If you choose to go to the course, it’s not difficult. If you want to hit the balls, it’s not hard. If you want to play, it’s not difficult. And for all those who reach the top of the sport, this is true. It doesn’t work at all. Jordan wanted to play basketball and win on the court, perhaps more than anyone else. And he wanted to practice. If you find something you love, you never work a day in your life. So Ben Hogan didn’t work when he hit the balls. Every single time he did exactly what he wanted to do. His “work” on the range is a myth.
So what Rory had to say only confirms her normality. He only said what we should expect him to say.