There are times in a players career when great golf is seemingly easy (the word seemingly chosen with much emphasis) and yet there are other times when it can be akin to shoveling shit uphill, because no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you find yourself stymied behind a Great Dane who has just finished a two week diet of Vindaloo.
Golf can be hard.
Like all players, Rory McIlroy has been behind that Great Dane more than once in his career.
It may have been through not having or owning his ‘identity’ with a putter, instead, adopting (‘adopting’, another word with emphasis) the mechanical and technical advice of teachers who merely teach you to eat the menu and not the food.
It could be the subconscious back peddling he puts himself through (which consumes psychic energy) when his honesty and natural alacrity in press conferences whips out a soap box exciting only the predatory journo’s devoid of asking intelligent performance questions.
And it could be a reluctance to admit, that where certain areas of his game somewhat fail him, he should swiftly act to improve those areas as opposed to turning a blind eye believing that talent can trump reality.
But that was then.
The Rory McIlroy I have witnessed in the past two weeks (I was commentating for Sky in the studio for his stella RBC Canadian Open win and will be next week at The Travellers) is not shoveling any shit uphill. In fact, he’s strolling in the park with his ego and game comfortably on a tight leash.
This is a wholly different man.
In life, when things are going well, it’s easy to take such times for granted. You neglect to document the journey and thus the discovery that got you here, your sense of gratitude for your obvious flow is ignored and the ease at which you perform is taken for granted.
For the first time probably since his late teens, Rory McIlroy has made game changing decisions that he owns, make sense and should be here to stay. His putting identity is becoming his to own and not just to adopt. His playing philosophy is how it should be, stoic. And his usage of energy (the Canadian Open was a classic example of the focus being on Koepka and not Rory) has been minimal and precious not abundant and frivolous.
In my first sentence I chose the word seemingly wisely. Why?
Because Jack Nicklaus’s career was no fluke, it was designed. Tiger Wood’s career was no fluke, it was designed. Muhammad Ali’s career was no fluke, it was designed. Nick Faldo’s career was no fluke, it was designed. Lewis Hamilton’s career is no fluke, its designed. Roger Federer’s career is no fluke, it’s by design.
Rory McIlroy has turned a corner in his career and I believe his next road will not, be going uphill.