Rory set to ben­e­fit from a nappy event

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - James Cor­ri­gan

First a con­fes­sion. Four years ago, Eng­land’s Danny Willett was cel­e­brat­ing on the 18th at the Masters and Jim Nantz, the TV sports pre­sen­ter – whose stand­ing in the av­er­age US liv­ing room is some­where be­tween Des Ly­nam and God – pro­nounced: “There is an old say­ing in golf: Be­ware the joy­ous fa­ther.”

I cringed. Not be­cause what Nantz had ut­tered was pure cheese, but be­cause I was cer­tain that in golf there had never been such an “old say­ing”. How was I so sure? I had made it up four days be­fore.

It was the eve of the tour­na­ment, dead­line was fast ap­proach­ing and we had just chat­ted with Willett. His wife Ni­cola had given birth to Zacharia the pre­vi­ous week. “I’m on tired cloud nine,” he told us.

Willett plainly had no nerves what­so­ever, with his mind still im­mersed in that strange mix­ture of eupho­ria and gunge. I spec­u­lated that the player, then ranked 12th in the world, “could free­wheel into con­tention”. I knew there were many prece­dents and that Keith El­liott, the great golf bet­ting an­a­lyst, had coined a catchy moniker.

Yet with the sec­onds count­ing down, I could not re­mem­ber it so, in a panic, and with a shame­less amount of jour­nal­is­tic li­cence, I went with: “There is an old say­ing in golf – be­ware the joy­ous fa­ther.” And then, that night it hit me – “The Nappy Fac­tor”.

Get ready to hear plenty of that phrase in the en­su­ing weeks, when Rory McIl­roy is set to step back into the arena as a proud par­ent. His wife, Erica, is due “any day” and with the US Open in two weeks and the Masters six weeks later, McIl­roy will be an in­trigu­ing test case. And if the world No 4 does re­lo­cate his win­ning spikes, ex­pect in­ter­est in El­liott’s the­ory to ex­plode.

I con­tacted El­liott to dis­cover his thoughts. “I’ve stated many times that Rory needs to change his men­tal­ity and that’s the im­pe­tus that the Nappy Fac­tor would bring,” El­liott replied. It is 24 years since he first posited his the­ory in The Golf Form Book 1996.

By then, this re­tired eco­nomics lec­turer had put in years of painstak­ing re­search and he cited sev­eral ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Nappy Fac­tor, in­clud­ing Jack Nick­laus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Nor­man and Nick Price.

Th­ese were just the no­ta­bles. The stats on the Tour backed up El­liott and, in his un­der­stand­ing, they still do. No less than Bryson DeChambeau, aka “The Mad Sci­en­tist”, seems to have con­firmed so.

“I no longer keep the fig­ures, but I know from two dif­fer­ent sources that DeChambeau dis­closed re­cently to fel­low pro An­drew Landry that he’s worked out the per­cent­age win-rate of new fa­thers and it’s ab­nor­mally high,” El­liott said.

“Over the years, I’ve been told in a whole range of sports that the Nappy Fac­tor works. I’m not sure why, but it’s most po­tent with sons as the first child and with the sec­ond child as a first son. I am sure it will work for Rory given his per­son­al­ity.”

Of course, El­liott can­not be cer­tain; hu­mans are not ma­chines. And while Landry was an ap­pro­pri­ate char­ac­ter for DeChambeau to con­fer with – Landry’s break­through win on the PGA Tour came at the Valero Texas Open in 2018, one month af­ter his first child, Brooks, was born – there are in­evitably those who have ex­pe­ri­enced the re­verse.

Take Geoff Ogilvy. He was the last win­ner of a US Open at Winged Foot in 2006. Later that year, he and wife Juli had their first child, Phoebe. Two World Golf Cham­pi­onship ti­tles fol­lowed in the years ahead, as did two more daugh­ters. Yet no more ma­jors. Did fa­ther­hood have any­thing to do with this? We will never know

“In eco­nomics, there are laws, but they’re all state­ments of ten­dency, whereas in physics, there are laws that have a uni­ver­sal truth,” El­liot said. “With the Nappy Fac­tor, there is a strong ten­dency, like a law in eco­nomics, for this to be the case. That doesn’t mean it’s al­ways the case.”

So how about McIl­roy? Can he – like Willett and so many be­fore – get a cru­cial bounce from his im­pend­ing new sta­tus? Could this be the key to that miss­ing Green Jacket and so, fi­nally, mean the North­ern Ir­ish­man is hailed as the sixth player in his­tory to com­plete the ca­reer grand slam.

The great thing is that in his cur­rent state McIl­roy could not give the first hoot about the an­swers to th­ese ques­tions. And therein, surely, is ex­actly the point.

Re­search has shown that the per­cent­age win-rate for new fa­thers in sport is un­usu­ally high

Fa­ther in wait­ing: Rory McIl­roy may get a boost from be­com­ing a dad in the next cou­ple of weeks, with two ma­jors loom­ing

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