Tiger Woods tried to find his happy place at the US PGA and walked away with a frown. But when Rory McIlroy remembered to play golf like a kid and smile, he walked away with another record eight-shot win and a second major title.
Dave Stockton hasn’t just helped McIlroy with his putting, he’s also a pretty good motivator and psychologist. As the Holywood player explained later:
“We had a chat last week in Akron and he just said to me, ‘You know, just go out and play with a smile on your face. Enjoy it. This is what you’ve always wanted to do since you were a little boy. There’s no point in getting frustrated out there or getting upset. Just go out and enjoy it.’ That’s the attitude that I had for the last couple weeks, and it definitely helped.”
Reflecting on the poor start to his third round that ultimately left him too far back to put McIlroy under any serious pressure, Woods said: “I came out with probably the wrong attitude yesterday. And I was too relaxed, and tried to enjoy it, and that’s not how I play. I play intense and full systems go. That cost me.
“I was just trying to be, you know, a little bit happy out there and enjoy it, and that’s unfortunately that’s not how I play. You know how I am. I’m intense and I’m focused on what I’m doing and nothing else matters. I got back to that today and I hit some really good shots and I played the way that I know I can play.”
Whatever it was that forced Woods to change the game face that has brought him 14 major victories so far, it backfired big time as he shot weekend rounds of 74-72 to McIlroy’s 67-66 (a 13-shot difference) to finish tied 11th, 11 shots behind the man who’s the biggest threat to his chances of overtaking Jack Nicklaus as the game’s most prolific major winner.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Woods replied when asked why he tried to smile his way to major No 15. “It was a bad move on my part.”
Padraig Harrington believes that the game has now changed for Tiger and he can no longer win majors with his B game if McIlroy hits the A grade.
Even Woods conceded that the young Ulsterman is a special breed. When he’s on…
“He’s very good,” he said. “We all know the talent he has. He went through a little spell this year, and I think that was good for him. We all go through those spells in our careers, and you know, he’s got all the talent in the world to do what he’s doing. And this is the way that Rory can play. When he gets it going, it’s pretty impressive to watch.”
Keeping it going is McIlroy’s next task. Like the loyal Nike man he is, Woods revealed how it works.
“You just do it.”