PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – If you weren’t a Rory McIlroy fan before this British Open, you should be now. How could you not be considering the deep well of emotion he showed after missing the cut at Royal Portrush?
McIlroy fought off tears when he stepped off the 18 th green despite shooting a 65, his second-lowest score in the game’s oldest championship. Unfortunately, an opening 79 that matched his second-highest Open score put paid to his boyhood dream of winning the Open Championship on his favorite course just 62 miles from his birthplace.
The 30-year-old wasn’t close to tears because he wouldn’t have a chance to win his fifth major, and second Open Championship. He was on the brink because he thought he’d let his compatriots down.
Sportsmen and women often go through the motions. They say the right things because they know it’s what people want to hear. Not McIlroy. He’s arguably the most open of Open champions.
It would have been understandable if McIlroy had jumped in a courtesy car and exited stage left as quickly as possible. That’s what Darren Clarke did. The 2011 winner triple bogeyed the 18 th to miss the cut and then sulked off the property like a child who’d been told he hadn’t made the football team. Not Rory. He ripped his heart out of his chest, stuck it on his sleeve and let the world see exactly how he was feeling.
“Disappointed not to be here for the weekend,” McIlroy said. “Unbelievably proud of how I handled myself today coming back after what was a very challenging day yesterday. And just full of gratitude towards every single one of the people that followed me to the very end and was willing me on.
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“As much as I came here at the start of the week saying I wanted to do it for me, you know, by the end of the round there today I was doing it just as much for them as I was for me. I wanted to be here for the weekend. Selfishly I wanted to feel that support for two more days.
“To play in front of those crowds today and to feel that momentum and really dig in, it’s going to be a tough one to get over.
“To have that many people out there following me, supporting me, cheering my name, it meant the world to me.”
And to them, Rory, and to them.