Rory McIlroy confessed that trying to act like Tiger Woods cost him the Masters. But realising that mistake helped him become a major winner and the hottest players in the game.
The 22-year old can become the youngest world number one since Woods if he wins the Honda Classic this week. But when recalling his final round collapse in last year’s Masters, he realised that his attempts to copy Woods’ intimidating aura and exude a “rip your head off” attitude backfired spectacularly during that fateful final round 80.
“My whole attitude completely changed from the Saturday to the Sunday,” McIlroy said, when asked what advice he’d give a player with a big lead entering the final round of a major.
“It might have been the occasion got to me. To be honest, I think growing up watching Tiger all those years win those majors, he gives out this aura where everything is just so focused.
“It’s like, ‘I’m going to rip your head off’ on that first tee. I felt like that’s the way I needed to be to win a major. But I quickly found out that that isn’t me and that isn’t how I play my best golf.”
McIlroy has watched replays of his US Open win with gusto but naturally he’s not so keen to relive the Masters.
“I’ve watched the U.S. Open a couple of times. Obviously you see like if there’s the Masters commercials on TV now, for instance, you see, I think my hand might be, or my head or my arm on 13 or whatever. But I haven’t watched the whole thing back. I’ve just seen little snippets here and there.
“I just wanted to watch my whole demeanor, body language, and that was something that helped going into the U.S. Open, because I knew that that was very looking at my shoes and looking at the ground all of the time instead of, even if you’re not feeling that confident portraying someone who is confident, chest out, head up, eyes especially that last round of the U.S. Open, I tried to keep my eyes above the crowd level.
“That’s something I really focused on. And even just having a good body language, it subconsciously gives you that little bit of confidence.”
He knows what he did wrong. He tried to become someone he wasn’t and betrayed the essence of himself.
“I was trying to be ultra-focused, tunnel-visioned, which just isn’t like me. I’m usually pretty chatty and sort of looking around and being quite relaxed about the whole thing.”
He had to be himself and believes he proved his point when he went on to win the US Open by a record eight strokes just 70 days later.
Realising that it was okay to be Rory McIlroy was something he realised in 2008, but took another three years to put into effect.
“I actually played in the 2008 Singapore Open with Ernie in the third day and it was the first time I had ever played with Ernie. I was so excited to play with him. You know, JP, my caddie, had obviously caddied for Ernie for a couple of years, so he was telling me, you know, there’s nothing to be afraid of or intimidated about. He’s obviously a great player, but go out there and play your game.
“That sort of Ernie, three major championships, Hall of Fame, won dozens of tournaments around the world and you’re playing with him and you’re keeping up with him and maybe shooting a better score or whatever. I think that’s when I realised first that, okay, I can be as good as these guys. That’s when I realised that I didn’t really need to be in awe of these big players.
“But I think Sunday at Augusta was a big day for me because I realized that, okay, I don’t need to be anyone to win golf tournaments. You know, if I have my own mannerisms and do my own thing and be the person that I am, that is hopefully going to be good enough. I feel like I sort of proved that to myself at the U.S. Open a few weeks after.”