The lead story coming out of the 2011 U.S. Open was how Rory McIlroy
not only raised a trophy in a record-setting way but how he did it after
the Masters meltdown.
It was redemption for the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland...and, in
a broader sense, it was an act of hope and encouragement for all
players who have suffered crushing defeat when the spotlights turn on.
McIlroy's improbable rebound from his very public, very deep dive at
Augusta to rise to unprecedented glory in the next major showed it's real-life possible to turn around impossibly harsh failures.
Think back to that slow, extended torture that McIlory excruciatingly
experienced on the back nine of Augusta on Masters Sunday that he began
with a four stroke lead, carrying the enormous expectations that this
day would be his official coming-out party as golf's Next Big Thing.
On the par-4 10th hole, he pulled-hooked a drive so far left that it
ended up in a sideyard between two houses. TV commentator Peter Alliss
sadly described, "It's moments like this that the game becomes very
And it wouldn't let up.
Rory's long punch-out blew all the way through the fairway. He then
yanked a 5-wood into a grove of trees well off the green. His fourth shot
flew into a tree branch bouncing back. A pitch and two putts later
finished his triple-bogey. Rory's lead had disappeared but the nightmare
kept coming...and coming.
He bogeyed the 11th. Double-bogeyed the 12th. And when he overturned
his drive on 13 into Rae's Creek, McIlroy buried his face in his arm. It
was painful to see.
When he mercifully walked off the 18th green with a back-nine 43, he
looked as dazed and drained as anyone would expect after going through
the devastating shock of shooting the worst final round ever by a 3rd round
It was so epically disastrous that most of the media treated the performance not with criticism, but with enormous pity.
Within minutes after the round, it would have been well-understood if
McIlory opted-out of meeting the press with his pain still fresh and
But he didn't take the easy way out.
"Hopefully the next time I'm in this position I'll be able to handle
it a little better," he said. "It was a character-building day, put it
that way. I'll come out stronger for it."
Maybe his competitors were rooting so hard for him to win is because
in witnessing Rory's performance they now can be certain that it's
possible to climb out of the deepest hellhole up to the highest peak.
Redemption for him...maybe for all.