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Teeing Off: Is the late-season criticism of Rory McIlroy fair?

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing jay.busbee@yahoo.com, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Today, we talk about the roller-coaster year of Rory McIlroy, and if some of the criticism of him after his U.S. Open win has been fair.

Bacon: Do me a favor, Mr. Busbee ... think back about four months ago. Summer was in mid-swing, the birds were chirping, and Rory McIlroy was roaring to a victory we haven't seen since the days of stubble-free Tiger Woods. He killed it at the U.S. Open, getting us all excited about his potential and his future and his final major tally. But things have changed since. The guy dumped the girl friend he said helped him to that win for a famous tennis player. He's got in some Twitter riffs with other top players, and just two weeks ago, dropped his management company on a whim. Is the media scrutiny the guy is going through his fault or is it just something we've played up?

Busbee: Ah, four months ago, a time when we thought "Keegan Bradley" was a law firm. We were so much more innocent then, weren't we?

You know that old parable about the frog and the boiling water, about how if you throw the frog in the boiling water he'll jump out, but if you turn it up slowly he'll just roast? Putting aside the question of what sick bastard thought it was a good idea to boil a frog alive in the first place, that's exactly what's happened to Rory. He was brought up in exactly the right way, largely away from the press and the pressure that surrounds every young golf phenom. But talent like his has a way of attracting attention, and starting with Augusta, that's exactly what's happened. I don't see that he's made any real major, career-threatening missteps, at least not in public, but he's getting a quick lesson in how every move you make has blowback you don't anticipate. Your thoughts?

Bacon: Yes, I agree that he hasn't gone Escalade on us or anything, but I think this simply shows that when you're as big a HOPE as McIlroy is, anything you do can come back and haunt you. But my question is simply, hasn't he handled the last few months poorly? I just feel like he could handle things better, but the good thing is, it's probably a great learning experience for young Rory. He screwed a couple of things up, can learn from them, and change them moving forward. Isn't that the whole experience of being a superduperstar like Rory is expected to be?

Busbee: All things considered, yeah, McIlroy is lucky that he's not having the monumental screwups of some other athletes right as they achieve stardom. He'll have to realize soon, if he hasn't already, that everything he does is now PR material, and anything from selecting a certain brand of coffee to dumping your girlfriend is going to have image ramifications. So, my reply to you, sir: is that fair? We hold him to a higher standard of behavior than we hold ourselves; is that right?

Bacon: Maybe not right, but definitely part of the job. You're telling me you wouldn't trade a little of your personal sanctity to a chance to make eight figures and play Augusta once a year? I sure would!

Busbee: I've put the offer out every year, but the best I've done is four figures and a free coupon to the Augusta Pitch-n-Putt.

Now your thoughts ... is this just part of being a superstar, or has McIlroy been unfairly criticized?

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