Thursday, December 2, 2021

Column: Rory McIlroy Reinvents the Art of Winning

LAS VEGAS (NWN) – The company held by Rory McIlroy is more elite than exclusive. Winning the PGA Tour 20 times, especially in this generation of increasing depth, is a big milestone.

He is not the youngest who got there. Tiger Woods was 24 when he won his 20th career title in the PGA Tour with 15 shots at the US Open, another reminder that Woods was in a league of his own.

Its 62-66 weekend to win the CJ Cup at Summit made McIlroy the 39th player in PGA Tour history with 20 wins, equal to the likes of Greg Norman.

Except he wasn’t the Australian that McIlroy referred to on Sunday night in Las Vegas.

“I remember turning pro in 2007, and at the end of that year I lost to the Australian Masters,” he said. “And the first two days I was paired with Aaron Baddeley. And Aaron Baddeley was – you might have to find that – but I think he was 18th in the world. “

(It is remarkable that he remembered Baddeley’s world ranking 14 years ago.)

“I remember playing with him for the first two days and thinking, ‘Oh my God, this guy is the 18th in the world.’ How cool will that be? ‘”

That would be great for an 18-year-old in the second month of his professional career, at 250th in the world, with 14 months left before his first professional victory. As a 32-year-old man who was interrogated earlier in the week in Las Vegas, why did he drop to 14th place in the world? Other story.

“It’s all relative,” McIlroy said.

Basically it is moving forward in a game that is known to throw careers back from time to time, and McIlroy is not immune to it.

He was # 1 in the world in July 2020, and then eight months later he completely slipped out of the top 10. Since winning his last PGA championship in Valhalla in 2014, he has passed 26 majors.

A talent like McIlroy is always tempted to ask if he should have done more. At this point, he appreciates what – and how many times – he has won.

Among the players who have turned pro over the past 20 years, McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are the only players to have 20 PGA Tour victories.

Johnson got there at 34 when he only had one major. Since then, he has added the Masters, and his PGA Tour tally is 24. McIlroy, who turned pro three months ahead of Johnson, is ahead of him in world wins (28-25).

They set a goal for the likes of Justin Thomas (14 wins) and Jordan Speet (12), both 28. Sleep, on the other hand, was stuck on 11 wins for nearly four years until he won the Texas Open this year. Thomas has won one victory in the last 15 months.

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Even in the best case scenario, it is not always easy to win.

This may be McIlroy’s biggest lesson from his important victory. There will be times when golf gets harder than it should be – his career has been marked by moments like this – and there is no reason to reinvent who he is.

McIlroy fell into a trap chasing Bryson DeShambeau in pursuit of more speed and more distance, until he realized that this was not an option. And then he started talking in Las Vegas about trying to become a player – no one in particular – that he was not meant to be.

The twentieth victory was a reminder that “it’s enough to be me.”

He had spent the previous week trying to shape his shots – tall and low, faded and stretched – to bring back a sense of his youthfulness.

“I just need to play golf. I need to simplify this. I just need to be myself, ”he said. “I think in the last few months I may have been trying to be someone else to try to get better, and I kind of figured out that being myself is enough. And as myself, I can do these things. “

The turning point was one of the worst moments of the year. He played three Ryder Cup matches, all of them lost, none of them even making it to the 16th hole. McIlroy said he was so depressed on Saturday night that he “doesn’t want to see golf again” until next year.

And then he found a goal in his last match at the Whistling Straits, beating Xander Schaufele 3-2, and then emotions so strong he could hardly speak.

“I went there and got my way by doing the best I could,” McIlroy said. “I wasn’t trying to be perfect, I wasn’t trying to throw punches that I wasn’t comfortable with, I just went there to try to win my match and I did.

“I think part of the emotion at the end was related to that week, but it was probably also related to the last few months in terms of looking to try to get better and knowing I didn’t have to look for anything.” – he said. “It’s okay here.”

And that’s more than enough.


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