Rory’s story should be a happy one
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