There are enough holes to fill a golf course in Rory McIlroy’s excuse for almost missing his Ryder Cup tee time. What matters is whether they lead to the void of lies that almost swallowed Tiger Woods.
For those who missed it, McIlroy needed an escort from the deputy chief of police, complete with flashing lights on the cruiser, to get on the tee box at 11:25 a.m. on Sunday. It was the final day of the tournament that pits Europe’s best against America’s top golfers. Had he arrived minutes later, the world’s number one player would have forfeited his match. He would have cost his European teammates their improbable comeback victory over the U.S. But he made it. He won his match.
So why would even those dull enough to care about golf wonder why some multi-millionaire 22-year-old kid couldn’t get himself to the church, errr, course, on time?
Well, I love fish, properly cooked and well seasoned. But my journalistic nose wrinkles and starts to sniff at the smell of anything fishy. McIlroy’s story is week-old tuna surprise fresh from a car trunk in August.
First, he claims he mixed up his tee time because he read it on his phone as being in Eastern Time, not Central Time in Chicago, where this year’s Ryder Cup was played. That requires us to believe the world’s leading professional golfer doesn’t understand the concept of time zones, though he is from Ireland but plays in North America. Doesn’t he ever phone home?
And this was on Sunday. He’d been playing tournament golf since Friday. He was only accidently on time for the first two days?
Even worse is the proffered explanation from his manager, Conor Ridge, that he had no idea where McIlroy was 25 minutes before tee-time and only reached the young player in his hotel room after frantic calls and a scrambled search of the Medinah Country Club grounds.
For his part, McIlroy says he ignored repeated phone calls to his room because he didn’t recognize the numbers on call display, and ignored repeated knocks on the hotel room door because he thought they were from housekeeping staff.
It could happen. Except that anyone who has ever been to a professional golf event knows these guys have more “shepherds” than a December full of nativity plays. No one, absolutely no one, was on hand to make sure that the highest-ranked player in the world, at one of the most intensely competitive tournaments in the world, was where he was supposed to be? But then, hey presto, a deputy police chief happened to roll by in time to get our chronologically-challenged lost boy to his tee-off?
Again, it could happen. I’m the first to admit I have no credible suggestion that anything else did happen. And yet . . . something in what seems like a cockamamie, cobbled together post-facto story makes me think of the word “enabling”. And that makes me think of two words. 1) Tiger. 2) Woods.
When Tiger fell from grace, a lot of people turned their faces away from him as though he was the only one who should be ashamed of what had gone on. It was easy for them to do so because they’d been doing it for years. They habitually turned blind eyes as he sank deeper and deeper into the habits of the heart that sunk him and that will prevent from ever climbing back to the heights he once commanded as a player.
Yet Tiger’s failure of self-control nested in the failure of friendship of those around him. Of course, he was—as we all are—responsible for his own actions. But the abdication of the duties of friendship is what has always made, to me anyway, his story something more than just another sordid tale about a madly rich professional athlete.
In the upcoming November-December issue of Cardus’ Convivium magazine, John von Heyking writes that tyrants are always lonely because they fail to understand that friendship is the form of politics. It seems to me we could properly extend that to sport, or indeed any human endeavour, when the tyranny of our sinful nature prevails because we ignore the essentials of friendship for others—and for ourselves.
Someone rather famously asked: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Judeo-Christian answer is emphatically ‘yes.’
Rory McIlroy needs to get that ‘yes’ at this point in the form of a brother, a friend—to be his timekeeper, to keep watch over him, to guide him away from any Tiger-shaped problems he might, just might, be headed toward.