Rory McIlroy has exposed the American golf media as liars and fools, and they are not happy about it. Rory has turned their Tiger Woods mythology into an albatross around their collective necks. For fifteen years, the golf media has lived in a fantasyland where Woods was as peerless to them as One Direction is to ten-year-old girls.
Remember when Woods first went into decline in 2010 and 2011? The golf media continued to focus on Woods because, they whined, “parity” had overtaken golf, and parity was boring, so of course they had no option but to continue discussing Woods. Well, there’s certainly no parity now. Rory is clear of the OWGR field by four full points. He’s riding a two-majors win streak. In his last twelve events, he has won four times and finished second four times. His worse result in that period is T-22. If parity was preventing the golf media from moving past Woods, what is their excuse now?
The golf media also crafted a narrative about the “athleticism” and “fitness” of Woods and how he was bringing “real athletes” into golf. I have never understood this narrative; if you can find even a shred of truth in it, you are a better man than I. And, besides, how would pushing such a narrative benefit golf? The theory is that in the future golfers will look like NBA power forwards. This is because, one presumes, the skills needed to elbow aside 6’9″ 270-pounders and grab a rebound are precisely the same skills needed to pitch a golf ball 60 yards over a bunker onto a linoleum-tile green. The idea is that “big, strong athletes” will hit (findable) 400-yard drives, and everything else will just naturally fall into place due to “athleticism.” Because, we all know, Lebron James could win the world table tennis championship if only he put his mind to it.
Well, Rory is shorter than Lebron James. And he’s shorter than Gary Woodland and Dennis Johnson and every other “athlete” the golf media has offered up as the prototype for Golf’s Future. And he’s steamrolling them like Marshawn Lynch playing Pee Wee League. Rory’s success has taken the golf media’s cartoonish narrative of “athleticism” and shown it to be, “Eh… not so much.”
[Of course, the biggest flaw in this golf media narrative is that size equates to athleticism. To maintain their narrative, the media has to somehow justify leaving out guys like Manny Paquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Kirby Puckett, Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, and Wes Welker — to name but a few — from their universe of “athletes.”]
Rory is also a pain in the butt for the American golf media when it comes to the Ryder Cup. NBC/Golf Channel have invested a lot of money in the rights to broadcast the Ryder Cup, so they are bound to treat the event as a Really Big Deal. Of course, Rory McIlroy, David Duval, and Tiger Woods have all at one time or another called the event a mere “exhibition,” but we’re talking big dollars here, so NBC and Golf Channel — and any reporter who doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of those two and miss out on potential television time — must treat the Ryder Cup as if every player on either team would not gladly take 0-5 in order win a major. Or a regular Tour event, for that matter.
At any rate, the Ryder Cup is a big deal in the media, so praising Rory, him being the “enemy” and all, causes cognitive dissonance among the carefully indoctrinated patriotic followers of the Ryder Cup. Who cares if you sour 103 weeks of golf coverage because, if America were to fall in love with Rory, it might make Ryder Cup week less compelling.
One of my favorites: Americans love a redemption story. This has been said millions of times, surely, about Tiger Woods. This was why “all golf fans want to see Tiger return to prominence.” We Americans might not like it that Woods was living a lie, but, by golly, we want to see him redeem himself after all his self-created problems.
Hardly. I don’t think anyone is wearing themselves out cheering for the redemption of investment swindler Bernie Madoff, or wife beater Ray Rice, or Tour de France thief Lance Armstrong. They made their beds; they can lie in them. Same with Tiger Woods. Screw him; he caused his own problems by running the biggest PR con game in American history.
Rory, on the other hand, is the embodiment of what people mean by “redemption story.” Fate dealt Young Rory a cruel blow at the 2011 Masters. In the wake of his Augusta collapse, he was belittled nonstop by the golf media for two months. During that time, Rory went to Haiti as Ireland’s UNICEF ambassador to help the people recover from an earthquake, reminding Rory, and anyone else paying attention, that losing a golf tournament is hardly Fate’s cruelest blow. A few days later, as everyone knows, Rory found golf redemption at Congressional, winning in a runaway.
That’s a redemption story. That’s the real deal.
Our golf media is hopelessly lost, entangled in a forest of rationalizations, clinging to the false belief that their mythology can be repackaged — “Tiger’s struggles are just as compelling as his dominance was,” I’ve already heard — and sold to the public once again.
Meanwhile, Rory, on schedule to equal Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors (and the current betting favorite to do so) is largely ignored. It matters not that Rory has ripped “parity” out of the golf reporter’s vocabulary. He has shredded their theory of the future of golf athleticism. He has complicated their flag-waving insistence that the Ryder Cup is more than a “pretty big corporate outing.” And he’s shown their professed love of redemption stories to be nothing more than hot air.