Memo to McIlroy: Grow some fangs

Brian Murphy
Yahoo! SportsApril 18, 2011
Memo to McIlroy: Grow some fangs
Rory McIlroy was in position to rebound from Augusta with a victory in Malaysia. Instead, he made costly errors down the stretch for the second week in a row

For Rory McIlroy's next trick, he'll stand by as a good-looking guy takes his best gal for a spin on the dance floor, he'll let a stranger cut in front of him at a buffet to take the last piece of chocolate cake and he'll have a neighbor blow leaves onto his lawn.

I mean, can a guy have any more experience living Doris Day's old lament, "Que sera, sera," in one eight-day span?

First, McIlroy had his guts surgically removed and placed, slowly, through a shredder on international TV last Sunday at the Masters. Next, McIlroy boarded a private plane to fly from Georgia to Malaysia – a tidy 30-hour journey – only to see Masters winner Charl Schwartzel on the tiny exclusive bird, sporting the green jacket McIlroy thought was his for 63 of the 72 holes.

As if that weren't painful enough, McIlroy's clubs were briefly lost en route. The good news was, when McIlroy recovered them, he stared the golf gods down, storming to the 36-hole lead in the European Tour's Malaysian Open after a second-round 64.

The stuff for an inspiring story was there. Would McIlroy give the world half of the peace sign by winning after his Masters heartbreak? Perhaps McIlroy would bark at Schwartzel on the private plane home: "Hey, last week's winner: That green jacket is old news. This week's winner wants some warmed peanuts and a 7-Up with no ice – pronto."

Alas. A 72-69 finish left McIlroy two strokes shy of 17-year-old Italian stallion Matteo Manassero, and we're left to ask: "What's Gaelic for Miss Congeniality?"

At this point, McIlroy is getting more famous for his graciousness and manners than he is for winning golf tournaments. It's one thing to give polite post-Masters interviews full of perspective. And it's one thing to display ultimate sportsmanship by sending a photo on Twitter of yourself and Schwartzel (wearing the green jacket), with the caption: "At least one of us has a green jacket!" And it's yet another thing to send yet another congratulatory tweet to another winner, as McIlroy did to Manassero: "Well done, Manny! What a player for 17!!"

But at some point, I'm looking for McIlroy to start going Charles Bronson/"Death Wish" on the golf world. This kid needs to start dropping haymakers, in the same vein as his epic 62 at the Quail Hollow Championship last year, before the golf cognoscenti start thinking of him as … dare we even say it? … can we say the "S" name? … as in …


There. I said it.

Now. It's absurd, outrageous and ridiculous to take Rory McIlroy's golf game, golf swing, golf results (63-hole lead at Augusta; third at Malaysian Open, including five birdies Sunday on his back nine) and frame them in a negative way. Right?

I keep being haunted by a thought, however. I imagine Tiger Woods, the ultimate winner, seeing McIlroy's tweets and seeing McIlroy posing with Schwartzel in the green jacket and thinking to himself: "Hmph. That's what a loser does."

So come on, Rors. You're the future, you've got the goods and you're a blast to watch. Grow some fangs and start drinking blood. You can still be charming and likable. It'll just be more fun with a bushel of wins by your side, and when you start tweeting with your new handle, @meandirtykiller.

Scorecard of the week

69-72-68-71 – 8-under 280, Brendan Steele, winner, Valero Texas Open

You, golf fan, thought several things during the Texas Open like: Who on this leader board could I ever pick out of a police lineup? How can I reasonably convince my wife that I should be watching this lackluster event instead of gardening? How fast can a cheetah run? What is the meaning of life, and does that ultimate meaning have anything to do with the Valero Texas Open? …

Yes, the mind could have easily wandered during a Brendan Steele-Kevin Chappell duel in Texas. Even Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo took a post-Masters week off, essentially telling golf fans: You can pretty much blow this one off, everyone.

And yet! There is story value here. Not only is Steele a first-time winner – and now has his ticket to the 2012 Masters and a two-year tour exemption and a small slice of fame forever attached to the tournament where Kevin Na made a 16 on a par-4 – but also he is a redemptive tale.

Steele, you see, does have news attached to his name. If you hearken back to February, when Tiger Woods made his season debut at Torrey Pines, you may recall Steele was the rookie paired with Tiger in the final round, when Tiger shot a 75 en route to a T-44.

After that round, Steele issued the then-newsy quote: "Once [Tiger] saw it wasn't going the right way, I think it didn't have his full attention," and added that Tiger "didn't give it all he had."

Holy impudence, Batman! The perception was Tiger's star had fallen so far, even a no-name rookie was cracking wise on Tiger's game. Steele, of course, was mortified and sent a letter of apology to Tiger, clarifying that he thought Tiger was more interested in working on swing changes than scoring the golf ball. Nothing like penning a letter of apology to the world's most famous sportsman to make you feel insignificant and lame in a hurry.

Now, a kid can go two ways from there: He can succumb to mental pressures, panic that he tugged on Superman's cape, and fade away. And Steele missing four of the next six cuts indicated he might be headed in that direction.

Or, a kid can gather himself, stand up and play the game. Steele winning at Texas indicates as much.

A feel-good story, y'all. Except that Steele is a California kid who doesn't say "y'all," even though the gallery-silencing signs held by marshals at the Texas Open do say "Hush, y'all." Steele, presented with cowboy boots after his win, opined: "Do I get a horse, too?" Well, for one week, kid, you're the new sheriff in town. Hope Tiger sends you a letter of congrats in return.

Mulligan of the week

• Come on. Mully of the Week this week should be renamed: "Gimme of the Week."

If you're not with me, I have two words for you: Kevin. Na.

No other golf shot struck on the planet this week trumps the need for Kevin ("Sixteen Candles") Na to get another chance to hit his tee shot on the ninth hole of Thursday's first round at the Texas Open.

By now, you've seen all 16 of Na's world-famous lashes. Shoot, the New York Times deemed his brambly adventure worthy of the Old Gray Lady's Saturday morning front page.

There are so many ways to interpret Na's adventure. There's the Clintonian "I feel your pain" path, in which you remember some of your worst moments on the golf course, and your soul reaches out to Na on some invisible plane of sympathy. There's also the darker path of "Point and Laugh," in which you listen to the repeated smacks of Na's golf ball in the brush and hear his occasional laments of "Oh, come on!" and "I think it hit me" from the woods, mixed with Golf Channel commentators uttering confounded remarks like "Man, alive" and "I think he whiffed in there" … and you can't help but feel a slapstick moment of comedy at the foibles of the human experience.

Either way, let's all agree to head back to the ninth tee and say, in heartfelt unison … give Kevin Na a mulligan!

Broadcast moment of the week

"How are we going to count all those strokes?" – Kevin Na, to caddie, emerging from the Texas brush, laying 12.

In all of golf's on-course one-liners that both pain us or amuse us – "You're still away" or "Hit it, Alice" or "Breakfast ball?" – I'm thinking the line "How are we going to count all those strokes?" in both its simplicity and its profundity, in both its plea for arithmetic and order, and its surrender to the massive chaos that engulfs us, may be my new favorite line ever uttered on a golf course.

Where do we go from here?

• The PGA Tour heads to South Carolina, where the gently lapping shores of Hilton Head always seem to soothe the TV viewer. It's a decent field with Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Matt Kuchar representing the top-10 ranked players in the world.

More important, perhaps, is that Rory McIlroy heads home to Belfast. He tweeted that he's looking forward to seeing his dogs – nothing like a little canine TLC for a kid who needs some.