Rory McIlroy explains in fascinating detail how a change in mindset – and a lot of reading – turned a disappointing couple of years into one of his best
It was a scene of epic proportions but Rory McIlroy remembers Tiger Woods’ win at the 2018 Tour Championship very differently.
One of the golfing moments of the decade came during the 2018 edition of the Tour Championship when @TigerWoods walked the 18th hole at the East Lake Golf Club, with one of the craziest fan reactions we have ever seen 😱😱#SSMomentspic.twitter.com/WTmmCmLqCr
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) December 9, 2019
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Playing in the final group alongside Woods, McIlroy carded a 4-over 74 to finish six back. Remembering the day in an interview with the Irish Independent, McIlroy explained how it sparked a change in his mindset.
McIlroy fled the scene almost as quickly as he’d fallen out of contention and, he explained, started to write down his thoughts – “I write the date, how I’m feeling, I must have written, I don’t know, 10 pages of stuff” – and spent his winter break reading.
Steve Jobs’ biography and The Greatest Salesman in the World were on his list, but he describes The Obstacle is the Way as “the best one”.
He added: “One of the biggest things I haven’t had enough of in my life is rationality. I’ve been impulsive at times, and acted on things without thinking them through. If I had read The Obstacle is the Way sooner, a few things might have been different.
“He (the author) gives examples of great people through the years that have displayed wonderful resilience and overcome things. I had no idea what Arthur Ashe had to go through to play tennis, Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison.
“He had what would now be called an R&D facility for all these mad experiments. It caught fire one night and all his work, which probably equated to a hundred million dollars today, was destroyed.
“So he’s standing there looking at it all going down in flames and he’s with his son. He says, ‘Go get your mother and your sister.’ And his son says, ‘Why would you want them to see this?’ He says, ‘They might never see a fire like this again.’ Because there were all these colours from the chemicals. He just had this wonderful way of looking at the world as everything went down the drain.
“And then he went on to create and do what he did. I mean, we probably couldn’t live without what Thomas Edison invented. The Obstacle is the Way is about challenge, loving a challenge, and I haven’t always loved a challenge. Things were great if it was easy but if it wasn’t, ‘F***, that’s too hard.’ Now it’s, ‘Make it difficult because it will make me better.'”
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McIlroy put his fresh outlook immediately into practice.
“I played in another final group in Kapalua but Xander went out and shot 62 to win. And people won’t remember Torrey Pines but I’ll probably remember that tournament for the rest of my life.
“I hit it terrible that week, but I was right in the middle of The Obstacle is the Way and every time I missed a green it was, ‘Right! Love the challenge. What am I going to do?’ I had this enthusiasm for missing greens! I got the absolute most out of myself that week.”
This was the beginning of a remarkable year which, though major-free, saw McIlroy win the Players, Canadian Open, Tour Championship and WGC-HSBC Champions – as well as the PGA Tour Player of the Year.
After the Sawgrass win, McIlroy said he “was just so satisfied and proud”.
“Not for the fact that I won the tournament,” he added, “but because of how I did it. Again, it was The Obstacle Is the Way – ‘I’m in this fight and I’m going to see it through.'”
So what can YOU learn?
It seems a simple message but it’s one that can help golfers of all abilities. After all, pressure is relative to the level you’re playing at.
While it’s a lovely feeling when your tee-to-green game is firing, anyone who has played any form of competitive golf will know these occasions are few and far between.
You’re far more likely to succeed when you enjoy what you’re doing, and shouldn’t golf be an enjoyable pursuit. It is a hobby for most of us at the end of the day.
So next time you tee it up, follow in the footsteps of golf’s World No. 1 and learn to embrace all the challenges that come your way.
Will Rory McIlroy be able to continue his form from last year? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet.