By Christopher Powers
If we listed off (and linked to) all the times Rory McIlroy had delivered press-conference gold, we’d be here all day. As good as that would be for our website’s traffic, we’ll spare you the clicking back and forth.
Instead, we’ll just praise the Northern Irishman for his latest and greatest quote, one that’s already making the rounds on social media. On Wednesday, McIlroy met with the media at Bay Hill in Orlando, site of his 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational victory, his only win last season and his only worldwide victory since the 2016 Tour Championship. Naturally, following a final-round 64 (birdies on five of his last six holes) that vaulted McIlroy past the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, Rory was declared BACK. With Augusta looming, career Grand Slam talk got ramped all the way up to 11.
Of course, McIlroy had a prime chance to pull it off at the Masters, only to falter in the final round, something that has become an alarming trend for the four-time major winner since. This year especially, as McIlroy has had opportunities to win on Sunday in each of the four events he’s played in 2019, only to come away winless and raise more questions about his closing ability. But, he’s clearly still in excellent form (he’s finished in the top five all four times), and it appears only a matter of time before he seals the deal if he continues to put himself in position.
It’s no secret that many would love to see him do it at Augusta, which was on full display in the final pairing last year as the patrons practically begged for Rory to do something they could cheer for and offered up golf claps for everything Patrick Reed did. Until he gets it done, McIlroy will never escape the career Grand Slam questions, and he was fed a plethora of them on Wednesday. He was as insightful as ever in answering them, starting with admitting that he may even be inside his own head, which is something everyone watching him at the Masters has also wondered.
“It’s definitely taken me time to come to terms with the things I’ve needed to deal within side my own head,” McIlroy said. “And I think sometimes I’m too much of a fan of the game because I know exactly who has won the Grand Slam, and I know exactly the people I would be putting myself alongside. So there’s maybe a part of that that, if I didn’t know the history of the game and I wasn’t such a fan it would work in my favour.
“But that’s not me. It would be a massive achievement. It would be huge. But again, I can’t think about it in that way. I just have to go out and play the golf course the way I know that I can play it and do the—and repeat that for four days—and as I said, hopefully, that’s good enough to have the lowest score that week and then I’ll be able to answer that question a lot easier. If it ever happens.”
The reporter who yielded those answers then asked McIlroy if chasing the Grand Slam becomes more difficult with each passing year. That’s when McIlroy referenced Abraham Lincoln, further cementing his title of the best quote in golf:
“No, I’ve become more comfortable with it, I mean the extra stress that I put myself under that first couple of years, 2015 and 2016 of trying to, I’ve become more comfortable with it. I guess I’ve become a lot more comfortable with the fact that I’m going to fail more times than I succeed at that certain, whatever, conquest or whatever you want to call it. So I’ve become comfortable with the fact I’ve tried four times, I’ve failed, but Abraham Lincoln lost the first 13 elections he was ever in. He wound up being the President of the United States. So I still got a bit of time.”
As Golf Channel’s Will Gray pointed out on Twitter, McIlroy’s numbers are a bit off. A simple Google search will tell you Lincoln lost eight elections, not 13. But who’s counting really (besides actual history books)? Rory said he was a golf historian, not an American historian, so we’ll let it slide.