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  • Alistair Tait

The frustrations of being a Rory fan

Maybe we expect too much from our golf heroes. That’s certainly true with Rory McIlroy.

Watching Rory play the final round of the $8 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship was extremely frustrating for Rory Fans. I’m a massive Rory fan. Have been since I covered him in amateur golf. How can anyone not be? He’s arguably the most level-headed golfer on the planet, especially when he makes the sort of comments he made before playing in Abu Dhabi. It’s well worth giving up 13 minutes of your time to listen to what Rory had to say. Here’s a wee taste:

“There’s still a lot more I want to achieve in the game and in my personal goals, but I’d love to look back on me and my career, and be like he was someone who brought a little bit of joy into our lives. I’d be happy with that.
“Focus on what really matters, and that is, more so than ever, family; the relationships in your life; and your game. All the rest is noise. You’re still going to be the same person whether you win four majors or 10 majors.
“Maybe sometimes I lost track of that some point in my career on the way up, and then I sort of got to the realisation that all the other stuff doesn’t mean anything: it’s fluff.
“Something like this (Covid-19) really puts into perspective what really matters in the world: the health of your family; checking up on your loved ones; making sure your friends are okay. That’s the important thing: the relationships you have in your life.”

These words from anyone else would sound cheesy. Not from Rory. It comes straight from the heart. He’s been saying this sort of stuff since he was an amateur. And yet….

Rory has the ability to do things on a golf course that make your jaw drop, and at other times have you shaking your head in frustration. There were at least three occasions on the back nine in Abu Dhabi when his fans probably muttered “Oh Rory!” out loud.

At the 11th hole he had a fairly straightforward bunker shot, but only managed to get the ball to 19 feet and dropped a shot. He only had 126 yards left on the 14th hole, and hit his wedge approach to 36 feet. Then on 16 he dropped another shot after missing the green from just 131 yards.

Oh Rory!

Take nothing away from Tyrrell Hatton. He played brilliantly to win in Abu Dhabi, but with a one-shot leading heading into the final round Rory should have done a lot better. Yet he lost by five shots. It’s happened so often now we’re used to it.

Before the final round, Rory said:

“I can't go into tomorrow thinking it's my turn. I want to make it my turn.”

And yet, once again, he didn’t.

It’s hard not to compare Rory to Tiger Woods. The difference seems to be once Rory’s head goes down he can’t seem to get it back up, can’t grind out a win the way Woods did in his prime, or Nick Faldo in his, or Jack Nicklaus when he was dominating the game. Rory would obviously disagree, but he seems more Seve Ballesteros than Faldo. When he’s on, he’s untouchable, but he’s now more off than on. It’s also harder for him to win now because so many players now match his length off the tee.

The inevitable questions will follow his dismal final round in Abu Dhabi: whether he really has the desire, whether he needs a new coach, new caddie, whether he’s working hard enough, etc., etc. Been there, done that. It’s part and parcel of being a Rory fan. These questions will dominate in the lead up to the Masters if he doesn’t win before he drives down Magnolia Lane. Yet no one would be surprised if he slipped on that elusive green jacket after a five or six-shot victory.

It’s so frustrating being a Rory fan, and yet wonderful at the same time.

#JustSaying: “Golf is a bit like an exam paper. I like the fact that each day asks different questions of you even though you can be playing on the same course.” Rory McIlroy

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