Rory’s story should be a happy one

Irish Daily Mail - - It’s Friday! - Eoin Mur­phy’s GREEN ROOM

RORY McIlroy has that tin­sel town sheen that makes him a global su­per­star. With over $300mil­lion in the bank and a Nike spon­sor­ship in the bag he is the sort of A-lis­ter who makes true the ex­pres­sion: women want him and men want to be him.

But I have been watch­ing him closely lately and some­thing has re­ally started to hit home — he looks mis­er­able. For a man who has ev­ery­thing that life could of­fer, he doesn’t seem to look happy with his lot.

As a sports­man Rory is in that elite club of pro­fes­sional ath­letes that tran­scends na­tions. He will never want for any­thing yet the longer he seems to play at the top ech­e­lon, the more dour his ap­pear­ance be­comes.

Look at Rory’s good pal Niall Ho­ran. That fella hasn’t stopped smil­ing since he was 16 and Katy Perry put him through on the X Fac­tor. There is some­one who won the tal­ent lot­tery and hasn’t looked back since. Ho­ran em­braces the world he now finds him­self in, all the while re­main­ing grounded and sound.

ICAN never un­der­stand why this at­ti­tude re­mains so re­moved from McIlroy’s de­meanour. I re­cently dis­cov­ered that this wasn’t al­ways the case when I took part in the Writer Cup, an an­nual tour­na­ment set­ting north­ern jour­nal­ists against south­ern me­dia in a Ry­der Cup-style for­mat.

It’s eight golfers a side over two days, play­ing four bet­ter-ball matches and eight sin­gles. The com­pe­ti­tion is pro­moted by Tourism NI to show­case golf in the re­gion and to en­cour­age south­ern­ers to play North­ern Ire­land’s great cour­ses. But it’s also a re­minder that some great things are near to hand.

We played Holy­wood — the lo­cals joke that it is one L of a town — a course on the edge of Belfast un­known out­side of Ire­land until Rory McIlroy be­came a world star and peo­ple wanted to visit the course he learned his skills. Not sur­pris­ingly, Rory has nice things to say about a course known for its beau­ti­ful views of Belfast Lough: ‘I have no doubt that the course helped me to be­come the golfer I am to­day.’

In Holy­wood, Rory is hon­oured by a plaque on the wall, a very small sim­ple sign that marks the mag­nif­i­cent tra­jec­tory of some­one who has yet to turn 30.

We played the course as part of the com­pe­ti­tion and while the north­ern jour­nal­ists may have emerged vic­to­ri­ous, I man­aged to get a rare glimpse into the psy­che of Rory, that those who don’t visit the club ever get to see.

When you walk up the stairs into the bar you pass a big glass cab­i­net. Here you have repli­cas of The Open’s fa­mous Claret Jug and the US PGA and US Open tro­phies… the last­ing me­men­toes of ma­jor tri­umphs in the game made him a mil­lion­aire.

But what is in­cred­i­ble is that the bar staff at the club take no time at all to re­gale you with sto­ries of Rory’s lo­cal phi­lan­thropy.

When he is back in Belfast he heads here and will spend hours work­ing with the lo­cal kids. He helps them with their game but he also talks to them about life in Belfast. You don’t read about any of these vis­its in the pa­pers be­cause he asks that it goes un­re­ported. He poses for pho­tos with the ju­niors and tells tour sto­ries about Tiger Woods and Dustin John­son and do­nates his old Nike clubs to the pro shop so that they can make a few bob rent­ing them out to vis­it­ing play­ers.

The staff brought us back to the stair­well where they opened the glass case and al­lowed me free rein on Rory’s ma­jor tro­phy haul.

It is part of the agree­ment with the club that fans of his are al­lowed ac­cess to take pictures with the fa­mous Claret Jug or the Wan­na­maker Tro­phy from the PGA Cham­pi­onship. Or you can swing out of the Scotty Cameron putter that he won his first ma­jor cham­pi­onship with (maybe he should ask for it back but that’s a dis­cus­sion for an­other day). It was a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence and one that I will cher­ish for a long time.

But the lo­cal de­pic­tion of Rory McIlroy is at odds with his cur­rent sta­tus of a brow-beaten, per­turbed golfer who is un­able to re­claim his for­mer glo­ries.

Per­haps if Rory wants to get his game back he should go back to the club and talk to the peo­ple who helped make him the player he strug­gles to be at the minute.

And then head out on the town with Niall Ho­ran so he can em­brace the sort of celebrity he ought to en­joy be­ing.

Why so glum, chum?: Rory McIlroy

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