Sunday, April 10, 2011
A Tough Road for Rory McIlroy
I hate to pat myself on the back. The reason is, most of the time I'm incredibly wrong about what I say, and I have to eat crow for most of the week following any prediction I make. After Rory McIlroy's round on Saturday, I thought there was little chance he'd tank on Sunday at Augusta. For three rounds, Rory made it seem almost easy to manufacture golf shots on those famed links, and seemed as comfortable with his golf swing as anyone since the old Tiger days when he hardly missed golf shots.
But one thing I've always said about the young players is, it's hard to sleep on that major championship lead. I don't know what it does to you, but it does something. It eats at your brain, and plays ping-pong with your emotions. I'm sure you sit up all night thinking about what it must feel like to lay that green fabric over your shoulders, and when you're 21-years-old, that's probably what you think's going to happen.
There is a reason that kids putt without fear, and if you don't think that, watch a 10-year-old putt the next time you're out at the putting green. They don't remember the bad putts from the past, or what it feels like to push one or pull one. They just see the hole, hit the ball, and hope it goes in. If it doesn't, oh well, we'll get 'em next time.
Rory lives without much fear. I've never seen the kid rattled until Sunday. When he hit that tee shot on the 10th, the game was over. It didn't matter that he went on to make triple, and four-putt the 12th, his day ended when he yanked that tee shot nearly out of bounds. I joked on Twitter that I've watched the Masters for long time and have never seen one of the cabins until Rory hit that tee shot, but it was true; he was in an area that will be visited a lot by the media on Monday during Media Day, but isn't ever visited on Sunday by the professionals.
The fear now is that Rory has to live with this. Dustin Johnson battled with this after his U.S. Open collapse and jumped right back in the game at the PGA Championship, but it still eats away at you. Rory is the next Tiger, no matter what people say about other guys in the game, and he showed it for 54 holes (or 63 as he said after his round), but now he must learn how to close, as most youngsters do.
He has still yet to win a PGA Tour event with the lead after three rounds, and as close as this looked to a breakout performance, it'll just be a learning curve for young McIlroy as he goes about his business in the next three majors, and the other big events. It just seemed almost too easy for him through three rounds, and major championships give us a chance to see what happens to professionals when they really deal with pressure.
Rory stumbled on Sunday, but hopefully that'll change the next time he's in this position. Let's just hope that the next time he's there, the putts drop early, and the doubt never gets in his mind. Doubt is a nasty, nasty beast.