How Rory McIlroy still has fun when winning majorsAugust, 2014
Why Rory's carefree approach should rub off on the rest of our (more modest) games
Over the years I have spent many memorable moments over in Ireland. The people have always been incredibly friendly and welcoming and the courses are stunning.
I have been very fortunate to work with Major winners Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell on their Mind Factor in addition to this year’s Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and multiple European Tour winner Michael Hoey.
But about 10 years ago every time I flew over I kept hearing people say there was someone ‘very special’ beginning to set the amateur golf scene alight.
Over and over I kept hearing about this kid from Holywood who had started to shoot amazing scores at a very young age.
That ‘kid’ was of course Rory McIlroy and all of the hype around him back then was, if anything, understated because, having secured the third part of the Grand Slam before the age of 26, he has joined a very elite club frequented only by two other golfers by the name of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
It would be a bold betting man who would wager any amount of money on Rory failing to complete the slam at what is arguably the course that suits his game the most, Augusta National.
One of the things that Rory absolutely loved about the game was to stand on a tee and feel the thrill of belting a driver miles into the distance One of the features of Rory’s win at Hoylake was his bold play off the tee, smashing many drivers miles down the middle and his two eagles in the last three holes on Saturday set up a six-shot lead.
I have never worked with Rory but I do remember a conversation I had once with his dad Gerry at Wentworth when he told me that one of the things that Rory absolutely loved about the game was to stand on a tee and feel the thrill of belting a driver miles into the distance.
He had talked on many an occasion with Rory about looking to perhaps take the safe option and be a bit more conservative but Gerry had realised it was taking something away from his son that lit up his brain.
Trying to be ultra cautious was just not in his nature – nor was it much fun. Now I know that this approach is not for everyone and to be able to compete at the highest level you have to hit the ball pretty straight – as well as long in the way Rory does – but I do think the story highlights that the game is meant to be fun and when you are enjoying yourself you tend to play better.
In the groundbreaking book called the ‘Inner Game of Golf’ that was published in the 1970s, Tim Gallwey talked about the ‘Performance Triangle’ consisting of Performance, Enjoyment and Learning and how your triangle had to be ‘in balance’ to be the best you could be with an equal part of the three legs.
If there is too much exclusive focus on performance and not enough on enjoyment and learning, your game will suffer.
For some golfers the thrill is plotting a conservative route and outwitting everyone else. For others, it is the joy of scrambling around the greens.
Whatever it is, we need to sometimes remind ourselves to have that fun out on the course and embrace the elements that give us pleasure a bit more.
We still need to look at and work on the weaknesses in our game of course but never at the expense of losing the connection to what makes the game enjoyable for us. It would seem that Rory seems to have his triangle very much in balance at the moment and is making the game look pretty easy.
This hasn’t always been the case and to be the winner he is has meant working through some challenging times on and off the course. To come back from his meltdown at the Masters a few years ago and now have three of the four Majors in his pocket is testimony to a very special talent.
A talent that has also remembered still to enjoy the process of playing golf.