It helps to have friends in high places. Northern Ireland golf star Rory McIlroy has revealed that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson helped him get over the trauma of his last-round collapse at the US Masters tournament.
Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal and former world number one golfer Greg Norman also sent messages of support to the 21-year-old after his attempt at winning a first Major floundered on the back nine of the final round.
McIlroy said Ferguson, who guided United to a record-breaking 19th title on Saturday, sent him a text advising him to share his torment with those close to him.
“Obviously you are going to be disappointed and hurting,” texted Ferguson, “but go and speak to the people you trust, family and friends, the people closest to you. Those are the people who will tell you the truth.”
Nadal, meanwhile, told McIlroy: “What you did for the first three days (at Augusta) was awesome. Your time will come, my friend.”
There were further comforting words in a phone call from Norman, who himself famously relinquished a six-shot lead after 54 holes when losing the Masters to Nick Faldo in 1996.
“I was 41 when it happened at Augusta. You're 21,” wrote the Australian. “You're good enough to get yourself in that position again. Just control what you can do and don't get distracted by all the talk around you.”
McIlroy said he is banishing the demon of the Masters by confronting it head-on. Augusta's notorious 10th hole, which brought the beginning of his back-nine torment, is currently the screensaver on his laptop.
But ‘Wee-Mac' has talked about the infamous c-word (choker) — without actually using it. “I hate that word,” he admitted.
“It's just a terrible word. It's not something you want to be associated with — the worst thing you can be called in golf, apart from ‘cheat’.”
McIlroy spent last Friday night in Dublin indulging in his other sporting passion — the Ulster rugby team.
Sadly, there would be no fairytale ending for the Ravenhill men either, who were well beaten by Leinster in the Magners League semi-final.
story so far
Rory McIlroy led the Masters by four shots going into the last round on the Augusta course. However, he came to grief at Amen Corner.
He hit a tee shot next to the cabins left of the 10th fairway and twice hit a tree to make triple bogey. He three-putted from seven feet for bogey on the 11th and four-putted from 12 feet on the next hole in his painful collapse.