Don’t declare Rory McIlroy as king just yet. Let him enjoy being prince for a while before we lay the crown upon his head.
I couldn’t believe the hyperbole surrounding McIlroy’s victory at Quail Hollow last week. McIlroy’s first PGA Tour win was peerless, but the adulation heaped upon him was just a little over the top.
You’d have thought we’d just witnessed the return of Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus rolled into one.
I worry about over-the-top adulation like this. More troublesome are the predictions that followed his win. Darren Clarke went on record in Italy this week as saying he expected Rory to be world No. 1 within three years.
While I hope Darren is right, I’m not sure such statements are in Rory’s best interest.
Clarke knows McIlroy better than most. Rory came through Darren’s foundation as a youngster in Northern Ireland. He’s watched Rory blossom from a very gifted youngster into a world-class player. He’s obviously hoping Rory will push on and become the first Irish player to become world No. 1.
I just wish Darren would keep his thoughts to himself rather than heap pressure on Rory with such public pronouncements.
Clarke knows all about the fickleness of the game of golf. It’s not too long ago he had hopes of becoming world No. 1. Now he’s fighting to break into the world top 100. He’s currently ranked 145th.
Thankfully, Rory also knows all about the capricious nature of this stupid game.
It’s less than a month since Rory was genuinely disillusioned with the game. He missed the cut at the Masters, and talked about taking some time off. Back problems were getting him down. He needed to see sports psychologist Bob Rotella. He looked like a player who didn’t want to be on the golf course.
There was concern then about the state of his game. In the space of four weeks he has become the anointed one.
Funny old game, huh?
If history proves anything, it’s that this game can jump up and bite you in a heartbeat. The game is littered with players who looked like future superstars only to fall back amongst the pack. Just look at Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott. Not too long ago that we were touting them as multiple major winners. While that’s still a possibility, both men would just like to get back to winning regular golf tournaments let alone one of the marquee events.
The good news is that Rory won’t let any of this hyperbole go to his head. Neither will his father, Gerry, or mother, Rosie. What has always been apparent about Rory is that he is one well-grounded individual.
I first saw Rory play when he was 14 years old. He played in the 2003 British Boys Championship at Royal Liverpool. Although he lost on the last hole in the opening round to English player Graham Benson, it was obvious to this eye that he was special.
I got the chance to see him play quite often in amateur golf. What separated Rory from the pack was a quiet confidence in his own ability. There was never any arrogance, never any effort to blow his own trumpet. Gerry and Rosie are largely responsible for that. They’ve instilled in him a humility that is refreshing in the age of jock sportsmen and women.
So the rest of the world might be talking up Rory as the new golfing Messiah, but you can bet he won’t ascribe to that. The rest of us would do well to follow his lead.
Let’s just enjoy watching him play rather than heaping the weight of the world upon his young shoulders.