Thursday, 14 April 2011

McIlroy's Meltdown - Hope For Us All

Now the dust has settled on the Masters, it's time to sit down and have a rational look at what happened. From my settee and as a golf fan, particularly a European Tour fan what happened to overnight leader Rory McIlroy was true "car crash" telly. It was horrible to watch it being played out shot by shot and yet was compulsive viewing.

What effect will such a huge implosion have on this young mercurial talent? One hopes that the psychological scars won't run too deep. He's known already in his short career for his cavalier, shoot the lights out approach, and I hope he continues to do so. However I think the only true way of knowing will be if he ever gets into contention again in a Major, either leading or just off the pace going into the final round. I think he'll be fine on the regular tour, both in the US and in Europe but the microscopic attention his game will be under at the next one at Congressional GC for the US Open and even more so at the Open at Royal St George's in July may be too much of a burden for his young shoulders to carry.

We've seen before the likes of Garcia come agonisingly close to winning one of the games top prizes only to falter at the final hurdle. Arguably he's never recovered from losing the 2007 British Open in a playoff and has never really competed on the final day since in any of the Majors.

It was a pulsating final round at Augusta and for a long time almost impossible to call the winner. With McIlroy's demise I desperately wanted Luke Donald to come through and win but his double bogey at the 12th ultimately cost him. I loved the audacity of his chip in after his approach to the last hit the flag and rolled off the green but it wasn't to be. Tiger Woods, still a golfing genius or pantomime villain depending on your allegiance reminded the viewing public of how good he can be under the white hot pressure cooker of the final nine of Masters Sunday. Again it wasn't to be and his chances were ruined on the greens, so long his bastion, and his inability to make putts over the last few holes.

The Aussie Geoff Ogilvy made a huge charge at the start of the back nine to come into contention, but ultimately you have to salute the eventual winner Charl Schwartzel. It takes a rare talent to birdie the last four holes of any event let alone to seal your first Major win. He played fantastic golf all day and was always within touching distance. He's another golfer arguably not yet at his prime who may find that after winning one, another follows soon after.

However we've got to go back to McIlroy. As a mere hacker, I can take some comfort, however macabre, that even the best can have a meltdown. We've all been there in club competitions, particularly the monthly medal, where we've been ticking along nicely. Suddenly from nowhere we have a "McIlroy moment" and card a horror score. Like the young scamp, the round falls apart and each hole becomes an exercise in futility, pain and angst. Just for once it was good to see, albeit one of the good guys, suffer in the same way I do most weekends.

What can we learn though? Well, in the most part the thing that separates the top professionals is what the Yanks call "bouncebackability" and the way they can forget a bad hole and focus on the next shot. It's definitely the one thing a club golfer fails to do above anything else. Easy to say, so hard to do. I guess the other great thing to bear in mind is take your punishment. Having chipped back onto the 10th fairway, had McIlroy laid up to a favourite wedge distance with his skill he might have limited the damage to a single shot, two at most. It was one time his cavalier approach cost him dear and I hope he learns from it.

And there you have it. The first Major of the year living up to its usual hype and providing a thrilling evening in front of the box. I can't guarantee the monthly medal at Royal Ascot will be as eventful on Sunday but I'm sure there will be McIlroy-esque tales of despair and Schwartzel like stories of brilliance. Who knows which camp I'll be in?

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