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WORLD OF GOLF: Rory McIlroy’s resilience is his most overlooked quality

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All an athlete can do after failing on an epic scale is to sift through the rubble and try again.

After the tears at the Ryder Cup and two weeks in which his anger and introspection gave way to a bright plan at his performance, Rory McIlroy resurfaced in Las Vegas and once again demonstrated the most overlooked quality in his considerable repertoire: resilience.

Just as he did on the final day in Whistling Straits, McIlroy defeated Open champion Collin Morikawa on Sunday’s trajectory to win the CJ Cup and claim a historic victory on the PGA Tour.

Rory McIlroy defeated Collin Morikawa on Sunday to win the CJ Cup

This was his 20th title on the toughest track in the world and a title that should make even his opponents think and reflect on what he has achieved rather than what he has not.

To put that number into perspective, no European in the past 80 years has come close. Indeed, the only non-US players to reach higher numbers are Gary Player and Vijay Singh, with McIlroy stopping alongside the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman.

Also, let’s not forget that McIlroy is only 32. At the same age, Phil Mickelson, with all his prodigious talent and the significant advantage of playing every week in his home country, had amassed 21 titles and no majors.

McIlroy admitted after his poor performance in Wisconsin last month that his first instinct was to throw the clubs in the closet and tell the golf world: see you in January.

This was his 20th title on the toughest track in the world and showed his resilience

This was his 20th title on the toughest track in the world and showed his resilience

“I didn’t want to play golf again until 2022,” he confessed on Sunday. “Even now I get even more emotional thinking about that Ryder Cup than winning here. Yes, there has been a lot of reflection over the past few weeks and I have come to the conclusion that this is what I need to do; play golf and simplify it all.

‘Just be me. I think for the past few months I’ve been trying to be someone else to get better, and I kind of realized that being myself is enough.”

Whether it will prove enough when the majors come we’ll have to wait and see, but it was heartwarming to see him draw a line in the Nevada sands. In a field of 10 of the world’s top 15 players, he did justice to his pre-tournament boast: “When I play well, I still feel like the best there is.”

Now he has to build on that. At least get a few more wins before we head to the Masters in April.

To those who believe he can never solve that particular conundrum and never complete the Grand Slam career, or end his seven-year majors drought in general, leave his words to Sports post standing on the topic last month as his clarion call leads to Augusta: “I truly believe the best sports psychologist in the world is a square club on impact.”

The only non-US players to reach higher numbers are Gary Player and Vijay Singh (above)

The only non-US players to reach higher numbers are Gary Player and Vijay Singh (above)

I can remember walking into my first European Tour media tent way back when I was in my early twenties, knowing no one and frankly terrified at the thought of dealing with a group of journalists, many of whom were household names.

A man immediately rose from his chair and walked over to greet me. “You must be Dai Davies’ replacement at the Birmingham Post,” he said. “I’m Renton Laidlaw and I’ll introduce you to everyone. Are you coming to dinner with me and some colleagues tonight?’

So it began, a journey spanning nearly 40 years in which the most influential golf journalist of all still found time to keep in touch, just like everyone else.

As I came into contact with the Tour and the R&A over the years, Renton would be there with encouragement. When I was hospitalized with Covid-19 in January, despite his own health problems far greater than mine, Renton was there one more time, calling my wife regularly for updates.

When I came into contact with the Tour, Renton Laidlaw would be there with encouragement

When I came into contact with the Tour, Renton Laidlaw would be there with encouragement

“I don’t want to disturb him,” he said on one occasion when I had left the hospital but could barely speak. “Renton, if there’s one person he wants to try and talk to, it’s you,” she replied. She was right about that.

As you are no doubt aware, Renton passed away last week at the age of 82. As the many wonderful tributes show, he was a titan of broadcasting, a master of newspaper deadlines, and a man who all but kept the Association of Golf Writers together for ten years and more.

But above all, he was the greatest of us in another respect, the most important of all. He was simply the nicest, friendliest journalist I’ve met in 40 years.

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