Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

How Rory McIlroy is still our golfing hero

In prize money alone, Rory McIlroy lost over £800,000 by finishing in a tie for 15th rather than winning
In prize money alone, Rory McIlroy lost over £800,000 by finishing in a tie for 15th rather than winning

As Gordon Lightfoot sang, heroes often fail.

Whatever it was that overtook Rory McIlroy on the unforgiving fairways of Augusta on Sunday and led to the dreadful implosion which cost the young man the US Masters title, it won't lessen in any way our regard here for his achievement.

It was no fluke that McIlroy led from the front for the best part of four days. So brilliant was his play that the consensus was, on Saturday, that only a catastrophe would deny him being the second youngest winner of the coveted green jacket.

And so it came to pass, with the awful persistence that only a sport played out over days can conjure up. Perhaps it was inexperience at being in front in such a major tournament or the pressure of the proximity of the associated attention being a Major winner brings or, most likely, his youth.

Whatever the reason, it's not quite the case that McIlroy 'failed to win'. The eventual champion, South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, carded a breath-taking final round of 66 for a final tally of 14 under par, which would have been a challenge for McIlroy to counter in any case.

What matters now is that Rory McIlroy should know that there isn't a single person in his home place who isn't feeling for him now. For most of that tournament, the world was hearing and reading a different message about Northern Ireland than last week's tragic headlines.

McIlroy took on his shoulders in an unexpected way the burden of representing this place on the world stage. He did that with the unbelievable authority, panache, skill and eventual dignity and good grace which our heroes manage to draw on when most needed, in victory or defeat.

Heroes often fail indeed. But that doesn't diminish their heroism in any way.

He deserves our good wishes, our continued support and, most of all, our thanks.

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