Rory McIlroy: Dignity in the Face of Defeat
I’m a big golf fan, and on Sunday, I did what I do every year during the first weekend of April: I watched the final round of the legendary Masters golf tournament at Augusta National. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, you may have heard about this year’s dramatic outcome, because the big story wasn’t about who was awarded the green jacket — Charl Schwartzel of South Africa — it was about who lost it.
With a four-shot lead going into the final round, Irishman Rory McIlroy was on the brink of winning one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments. But his game began to melt down. At one point, when he knocked his drive into a small tributary, he dropped his head on his right forearm, his body slumped in confusion and embarrassment, and by the time he stepped off the course, he had fallen to a tie for 15th place. It was one of the greatest collapses in Masters history.
I have had the honor of playing Augusta, and let me tell you, it is an intimidating place when there is no one there except you, your buddies and the caddies. I can only imagine the pressure of having to play that course during the biggest, most pressure-packed and most-watched golf tournament in the world.
But it isn’t Rory’s collapse in the face of that pressure that I’m going to remember. It’s what the 21-year-old did off the golf course that made me take notice. Instead of throwing down his clubs and heading straight for the locker room, he saluted the huge crowd that had been behind him, tipping his hat, acknowledging the applause. Then, at a press conference, he calmly answered every question from reporters with the grace and experience of a seasoned veteran. And he later tweeted: “Congratulations Charl Schwartzel! Great player and even better guy! Very happy for him and his family!”
Never has poise been more on display than how the young golfer handled Sunday night after the tournament. Some of you may be thinking, Dr. Phil, if McIlroy had any poise he would have held onto his lead and won the tournament. But the way I see it, the measure of a man is taken when he is down. When facing complete failure, does he give up? Or does he get back up, dust himself off and try again?
Sure, this is a loss that is no doubt going to take McIlroy a while to get over. But the grace he showed in spite of that loss is a sure sign of who he is as a person — his ability to overcome adversity and get on with it. He obviously knows failure is only that: a single event in his life, not something that will define him. I’m convinced he’ll learn from this, and come back better than ever.