“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…”. These are Kipling’s most famous words – words that resonate in sport – so much so that they are included above the players entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon – and are surely etched on Rory McIlroy’s heart today.
His battling back nine, responding to his disastrous opening stanza, showed the mark of a champion. He was careering towards a 76 or 77 when he arrested the slide and started making birdies. Throughout his tribulations – some of which I saw first hand, which was not pretty – he didn’t show any anger, any frustration, any impatience. He hung in there and kept trying to make his next shot his best. It was inspiring to see and a lesson to all of us to never, ever throw the towel in; never stop trying no matter how disappointed you get or how unlucky you feel you have been.
The non-sports fans will wince when they see me talking about courage and determination – surely they will say, those adjectives should be saved for fire-fighters and soldiers. I hear you. But, everything in life is relative. Please remember my non sport fans friends that sports people are doing a job just like you or me – a very pressured, highly scrutinised job – but there is no hiding from the world for them if they are having a bad day – no keeping your head down in the office; no working at home. They are on stage; in the limelight; in the firing line.
So yes, I agree, this is not the courage and determination we see in others in uniform but Rory showed us today the courage and determination worthy of an Open Champion. He may not get his hands on the claret jug on Sunday – as you can see, I had a brush with it today – but he can be very proud of his gutsy effort this afternoon. He made every shot on that back nine count; he never gave up and he got what he deserved. He is right back in this tournament. See you tomorrow, Rory!