Coming off a great win this past weekend, Rory opens up about the highs and lows of the game of golf. Finding what works for his game both physically and mentally.
Rory McIlroy undergoes an increasingly common journey: The return to a ‘true self’
If you’re a recreational golfer, especially one who likes to spend time on the range, you’ve likely had this experience at some point: A single swing thought clicks into place and you start hitting the ball very well—and very consistently. Your confidence grows with the success, and after another dozen great shots, it becomes irresistible to add a little something—a new move, more speed, anything. It even works, at first, and a good thing becomes even better. Then, slowly and subtly, you start to lose it. The thing you added spirals out of your control, and you’re not sure exactly how to fix it. The shots get worse, and perhaps unconsciously, in ways you won’t realize until later, you lean into the new thing rather than losing it, which only makes things worse. By the time your bucket of balls runs out, you’re a sweaty, angry mess, and those perfect moments from just minutes earlier are a distant memory. It’s only later, with clarity, that you are able to revert back to the original thought and rediscover your form for next time.
If that sounds familiar, you’ve experienced in microcosm, and in metaphor, what many professional golfers endure over a period of years. The beats are all the same: the initial success, honed in whatever unique style they possess, that gets them to the top of the sport. This is often followed by the nagging desire to constantly tweak and improve, which leads to a departure from what worked in the first place, which leads to the golfing wilderness and the blind struggle to escape, which leads to a thousand false solutions, which is finally resolved—if it’s resolved at all—only by returning to the “true self” that propelled them to the heights in the first place.
Rory McIlroy, who has never given a dull interview, hit this theme hard after his victory Sunday the CJ Cup.
“I feel like the last couple weeks I’ve realized that just being me is good enough,” McIlroy said, “and maybe the last few months I was trying … not trying to be someone else, but maybe trying to add things to my game or take things away from my game. I know that when I do the things that I do well, this is what I’m capable of. … That starts with being creative and being visual and maybe sort of sifting through the technical thoughts and not maybe being as technical with it. … Sometimes I forgot that in a quest to try to be too perfect probably, but this week was a great reminder that you don’t need to be perfect to be a great golfer.”
As far as epiphanies go, it may sound basic, but in a game like golf that is so fickle even for the best players, where the default strategy is to master the technical side of the game in an attempt to reduce and control the chaos that constantly threatens, it seems to have struck him as especially profound. The idea that he’s good enough to trust himself, to simply visualize what he wants to do and then execute, seems to have run contrary to how he was operating before, and the effect on his psyche—you can feel it from afar—is liberating. Two weeks ago, he was ready to give up golf for the year in frustration. Now he’s a champion again.