Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.
He wants to become a true American idol by winning the Masters and proving that his decision to dump manager Chubby Chandler last year—the man responsible for the girlfriend error—was a crucial step on the road to becoming his own man.
Believing his results have justified the move—three wins and eight top 10s from 11 starts since he left ISM—he told Golf.com’s Alan Bastable: “I felt like the path I was going down wasn’t the path I wanted to go down.”
Taking his future into his own hands was crucial and he felt he was becoming overly-influenced by Chandler and archrival Lee Westwood. He regrets taking their advice and giving up his US Tour card at the end of 2010 and then snubbing the Players Championship at Sawgrass.
It was the beginning of the end for his old manager and the start of a new era for the Holywood star who quickly announced a PGA Tour return in August.
Looking back on his Sawgrass snub, McIlroy said: “That’s another example of being involved with Chubby and ISM and maybe being led down the wrong path, or a path that I didn’t want to go down. It was something I sort of felt like I had to do.
“I think just spending a little bit of time around Chubby and Lee and hearing their view of the PGA Tour—obviously they’re very pro-European Tour—while I’ve always been one who wanted to play on the PGA Tour. Not playing Sawgrass was one of the decisions I look back on and regret a little bit.”
Growing up means taking responsibility for your decisions and McIlroy admits that his Masters meltdown taught him some valuable lessons. Realising he was in denial about his short putting, he went to short game guru Dave Stockton and won the US Open by eight shots just two months later.
Rory said: “It was definitely a defining moment. It could have been the crossroads of my career. I could have did what I did on Sunday at Augusta and let it affect me and let it get to me, and maybe gone into a slump or feel down or feel sorry for myself. But you know, I had enough good people around me not to let that happen and I was able to go down the right path and do the right things to put everything right and win the next major.”
The final piece of the puzzle will fall into place at Augusta on Thursday.
When McIlroy reaches that 10th tee in his opening round, everyone else will be thinking of last year’s disastrous triple bogey when his drive ricocheted off trees and finished 80 yards left of the fairway between some cabins. McIlroy admits there will be some intimidation but he’s already taken steps to ease the pressure by sneaking back to Augusta for a hush-hush practice round with caddie JP Fitzgerald last Wednesday.
He said: “Hopefully, this year, I won’t see those cabins quite so close up. I don’t look at it as revenge really. It would just be great to put myself in a position to win again, and if I can do that, it will be great to see if I can handle things a little bit better.”
Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.