Home About This Week On Dr. Phil DrPhil.com
April 13th, 2011 by Dr. Phil

Rory McIlroy: Dignity in the Face of Defeat

rory_1I’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.

Tags: , , , ,

23 Responses to “Rory McIlroy: Dignity in the Face of Defeat”

  1. Melinda Jones says:

    I could not agree more with what you have to say about Rory Mcllroy. He showed so much strength and class, I wish I could muster half of what he showed us on Sunday on a daily bases.
    I love golf and he proved that the sport has true hero’s and personalities that we can all learn from.
    I thank Rory for giving us a truly exciting Masters and I am confident that he will come back from this stronger than ever.

  2. Well said – and I totally agree. Its harder and harder to find young kids these days that know the meaning of dignity & self-respect…much less – respect for others. It is refreshing and encouraging to see this young player display such a level of sportsmanship, respect for his peers & confidence in himself…and he’s likely a much better role model that recent golfers in the media. BRAVO!

  3. Annie L. says:

    I absolutely agree with you! He seems to be a great young man with a bright future!

  4. Charlene says:

    Rory showed tremendous grace and composure. I felt badly for him, but I also remembered he is a young 21 year old with many years of golf in his future. Remember his name – we’ll be seeing alot of Rory McIlroy (I wonder if we’re related as my great-grandfather was a McIlroy). :-)

  5. Shane says:

    This young lad will have his share if MAJORS maybe the great man above wants it to be THE OPEN ??

  6. Kimi says:

    I think that really shows how good of a man he is. Actually, it shows how good of a “loser” he is. Most people who lose, take it pretty bad. He showed that even if you lose, you’re still a WINNER. =)

  7. Jan says:

    Golf is a gentlemen’s sport, but not all golfers understand that. It’s true that it’s not about winning but how you play the game and more importantly your reaction in the face of loss. He is to be admired and commended. Thanks, Dr. Phil, for being that voice.

  8. Malin says:

    I’m just wondering where I can buy your seasons on DVD? And if I can’t buy it anywhere, why not?

  9. FosterBoys says:

    I’m glad he’s being applauded for this, but honestly, didn’t he behave like most of us would? I think the image of a spoiled, petulant superstar has fooled you into thinking that that’s how all sports people behave. I believe that there are more people out there who are decent, appreciative, well-mannered people than there are brats who give sport a bad name.
    What kind of buffoon attends a prestigious sporting event and doesn’t put on his best behavior out of respect for the occasion? What kind of jerk throws his clubs and pouts in front of all of those spectators and isn’t humiliated by his own behavior? Yes, we hear about people who act like that; people who then (rightfully) get roasted in the press for being such and ignorant child.
    The rest of us, on the other hand, have what’s called class and common sense.

  10. FosterBoys says:

    Humble beginnings. Remember yours? Remember when you helped people once a week and we loved you for it? What happened? Did people stop being grateful enough for you? When did you turn from being someone who helped people because you were good at it to being someone who helps people in order to demonstrate your generosity? Yeah, we get it — you have a lot of money. If you don’t want to help people anymore, then just stop. Or help people the way you used to — without throwing money at them. You can still do that. You still have whatever intelligence got you to where you are now, right? At least, this way, you can stop feeling like you’re being taken advantage of (which in many cases you are) and start feeling again like people are looking to you for your guidance — not your money.

  11. Matt says:


    I agree with you in that the majority of athletes are probably “classy.” The distinction, however, is that this was a public display broadcast worldwide. Public athletes are role models,whether they want to be or not. When they behave badly, it is easy to think that “everyone” behaves this way; and that this behaviour is acceptable. It is great to see a public athlete behaving like a true champion.



  14. Ann Herr says:

    Regarding Alexandra.. Please, if she ever goes to treatment make sure she goes for at least a year. A 28 day treatment plan rarely works. I usually encourage 9 mos. but I think she needs longer. It will probably be the least selfish thing she has ever done in her life.

    I agree with you comments on Rory McIIroy. What class. What charm. What a total WINNER! It made me cry.

  15. Ian says:

    i think that on the show that was about the intervention with the daughter that the mother has more of a problem than the person on drugs. The mother was reacting like she was going to have a meltdown in front of the camera. It looks as though she cares more about her daughter’s problem than her father did and the mother looks like she’s being a bit manipulative.

  16. FosterBoys says:

    Hope my criticisms don’t hurt you personally. I want you to question your judgment on the show, for sure. But I don’t want you to be hurt by what I say. I sometimes disregard that you might not be as impenetrable as you appear. Hell, you might be, but I feel better apologizing anyway. I want to get through to you, not just TO you.

    Anyway…so what’s new and exciting? Just kidding. I’ll get on you about the debacle that was Alex’s intervention some other time.

  17. FosterBoys says:

    To paraphrase you when you say, “When you’re mad about everything, you’re mad about nothing” is a cold generalization and something people say because it’s been said before and because it doesn’t require any thought.

    Think about it now.

    If anger is the outward expression of hurt, fear, or frustration, then are you suggesting that the frequency of the thoughts invalidate the realness of the feelings? I counter your oversimplification with an overcomplication.

    But in all seriousness, I (hypothetically) feel sadness all the time. Am I, therefore, sad about nothing? Is my sadness less real than someone who feels it less chronically?

    I expect your answer by no later than 5pm. :)

  18. FosterBoys says:

    Oy veh, beauty or brains — which is the key to success? Why do you do this to me? My head is going to explode, but I’ll answer your question thoughtfully. It depends on how you define success and who stands between you and it. In what career to I aspire to be successful, and will I encounter a boss who can merit promotion based on looks?

    That’s my educated answer. Here’s my real world answer: Beauty is the key as long as it lasts. Silly boys think you can’t be both. Let them be blissfully ignorant and think that beauty = stupidity.

  19. FosterBoys says:

    Q for the gents: What’s the key to succeeding in life? — hair or education?

  20. FosterBoys says:

    Are you still interested in answers to your Q – “How would you deal w/a drug addicted loved one”?

    What I wouldn’t do is involve the criminal justice system. Drug use is a medical issue, a social issue, a mental health issue, etc., but what it’s not is a criminal issue. So many times I’ve tried to get you to commit to addressing this systemic flaw of ours (Americans). I’ve come to terms that your opinion on the matter will remain one of the great mysteries of the world. It’s a shame that such a sensible person would hold on to such an irrational, antiquated, and unjust policy. That is, unless you agree that drug use has no place clogging up the justice system.

    As much as I’d love to debate you on the matter – neither of us has anything to offer the other. And I don’t want to be on TV any more than you want to be proven wrong. Stalemate.

  21. Susan Harris says:

    It was so refreshing to see the display of good character on national tv for a change. What a great example to follow!

  22. FosterBoys says:

    Q – Do we (Americans) have a measure for the prevalence of hypochondria? Self-reports are no good. Would we gather that info from ER visits & primary care physicians or from psychologists (or some combination thereof)?

    I’m curious if hypochondria is a function of a nation’s health care. My theory is that countries with both the best and the worst health care would have the lowest incidences of documented hypochondria, while nations like ours would have the highest. We have broad and unrestricted access to information but highly restricted access to actual care.

Leave a Reply