Rory gets a good read – PGA TOUR/Perform Media

Posted: March 12, 2020 at 10:44 am

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Ballast for the brain

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. P.J. ORourke

To get an idea of what books mean to McIlroy, consider the fourth hole in last years final round. It was a cloudy 59 degrees and nearing 2:30 p.m. ET. He was crushing the driver he would trail only Tommy Fleetwood in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and liked the course better in March than in May, as he could see it better from the tees. TPC Sawgrass had over-seeded and thus created sharper definition between fairways (lighter) and rough (darker).

The fourth is not hard if you hit the fairway, but from the right fairway bunker or the rough, it can be tricky to hit the green, which is guarded by a moat. One stroke behind Jon Rahm entering Sunday, McIlroy had already worked his way into the lead but found the right rough off the tee. Now, with a wedge, he swung and watched in horror as his ball came out left and soft.


It was cold; even though sunrise had been at 7:33 a.m., he had not had much chance to show off the green St. Patricks Day shirt under his blue pullover. Jason Day waited as he took a drop.

There were a lot of places McIlroys mind could have gone. Having been in contention but not won in his previous five TOUR starts, all top-six finishes, he could have thought,Here we go again.

He cant close, he cant play on Sundays, McIlroy said later, describing the noise that had seeped up from the muck. Blah, blah, blah.

Here was a player who could do no wrong as he won the 2011 U.S. Open, 2012 PGA Championship, and 2014 Open Championship and PGA, but now he apparently could do no right.Here we go again? Yeah, McIlroy could have gone there.

Reading, though, had steeled him.Avoid the big reaction.Thats one of the tenets of one of McIlroys favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, who espouses the stoicism of figures like Marcus Aurelius in The Obstacle is the Way and The Ego is the Enemy.

Not giving in to your emotions, says McIlroy, who in the last year has befriended the author. (They trade the occasional email.) Not being impulsive, being a little bit more rational, taking a step back to think about things logically. Thats what has helped me.

I mean, if you go back to THE PLAYERS, he adds, I went from leading or tied for the lead to a couple behind, but I didnt impulsively go and chase some birdies. I was like, OK, this is fine, weve got a lot of holes left. Theres a lot that can happen, stay patient, and show poise, and all the P words that I like to use. All of that comes from reading and a little bit of inward reflection and figuring out what I need to do to get the best out of myself.

In the end, McIlroy recovered to win the TOURs signature event.

On a wild day in which a half-dozen people had a share of the lead, he accepted his double and turned in 1 over, then made four back-nine birdies to post a 2-under 70 and win by a shot over Jim Furyk. His best shot, he said later, was the 6-iron he hit out of the fairway bunker at the par-4 15th, his ball stopping 14 feet from the pin before he made the putt. His most important shot, though, might have been his gaffe at the fourth, the fulcrum on which his week and perhaps his entire season could have swung one way or the other.

If you dont like to read, you havent found the right book. J.K. Rowling

Tiger reads a lot, says McIlroy, who also has read popular novelists like J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown. But he reads a lot of, like, the medical journal and studies that have been published and stuff like this. Hes a big reader, but I dont know if hes a big reader of books, per se.

Lucas Glover is a reader. He went through a large chunk of the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, and is now onto The Body, by Bill Bryson. Sometimes, Glover talks books with Peter Malnati, also a reader. David Duval had a bookish side even in his prime.

The written word is alive and well. Asked at the Masters last year to name the best book hed read in the previous 12 months, McIlroy was surprisingly expansive.

The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino, thats one that I sort of refer back to every now and again, replied McIlroy. Either of the Ryan Holiday books are pretty good, The Obstacle is the Way or Ego is the Enemy. Just started on Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, so getting into that. Theres four.

He later mentioned a fifth, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. McIlroy, who has deleted several apps from his phone, wonders what all of our screens are doing to us and tries to go low-to-no-tech during tournament weeks, preferring jigsaw puzzles and, yes, books.

But why? Its not that McIlroy, an only child, staved off loneliness with his books. Nor was he ever obsessed with academia. It was never my forte, he said in a lengthy interview with the Irish Independent. I was good enough to get by, but I never excelled.

Its more accurate to say he was seeking ballast amid the pitching and yawing of life as a public figure. Was he a good person because he was winning golf tournaments? Was he a bad one when he wasnt? Even amid his dazzling early success, he felt slightly unmoored.

One thing I used to do in the past is let what I shot that day influence who I was or my mood, McIlroy said last season, when he also led the TOUR with 14 top-10 finishes and won the Byron Nelson Award for adjusted scoring average (69.057). Its something I worked hard on because who I am as a person isnt who I am as a golfer.

In other words, at 30 he has become acutely aware of the perils of accomplishment. Regarding the Jobs biography, McIlroy was struck by the Apple major domos failures and comebacks and achievements, but also by the rare glimpses into Jobs humanity.

It seems like he was a pretty hard guy to like at the start, and I think thats why I found the book so slow-going, he says now. I was like, I dont know if I like this guy. And then as it goes on and he gets sick and starts to appreciate his family more, you get a sense that hes turned the corner a bit, and there are things he values maybe more than just trying to create another cool product.

If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books. Roald Dahl

At the Ryder Cup in France in 2018, McIlroy came upon another favorite author: Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F---: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, followed by Everything is F-----: A Book About Hope. As the titles suggest (weve, ahem, slightly altered them), his books are equal parts profound and profane. Theyre also very funny.

(European Captain) Thomas Bjorns partner, Grace, gave Mark Mansons (Subtle Art) book to all the wives, McIlroy says. My wife read it before I did and gave it to me and said, I think you should read this. Its really good. Its an important book to me.

The title was part of the initial appeal, and thats because, McIlroy admits, Sometimes I care too much about too many things. But theres more to it than that.

In The Subtle Art, Manson writes about humankinds misery amid a long list of advances (from the Internet to eradication of disease) that one might have thought would have made us happier. One culprit: the idea that we can have it all, and everyone can be a superstar.

The key to a good life, he writes, is caring about only what is true and immediate and important, and not getting caught in what philosopher Alan Watts called the backwards law, the trap of pursuing feeling better/richer/thinner only to reinforce a feeling of dissatisfaction.

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience, Manson writes. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of ones negative experience is itself a positive experience.

Perhaps this is what McIlroy was thinking of when he told Ewen Murray of The Guardian that the last step for him was mindset, i.e., when you are in contention, not giving a s*&% if you win or not. In other words, a sports psychologist might say, its important to just let it happen.

He talks about how everyone wants to get smarter, more attractive, richer, McIlroy says of Manson, and theyre not going deep enough to ask, Why do I want these things? Whats wrong with who I am right now? Its people thinking that all these things will make them happier at the end of the day. With this book, its getting happiness from the simple things in life.

For instance, he adds, I get to go grocery shopping on the Monday when I get home from a tournament, and that to me is fun. Thats very mundane for most people, but for me its a little perk for having a week off, going to Whole Foods and doing the grocery shopping.

Some of the rules in the books McIlroy reads can be contradictory. While Holiday preaches stoicism, Manson points out in Everything is F----- that its impossible to completely remove emotion, lest one turn into a potato.

McIlroy may have been wrestling with this paradox last summer. Having decided to treat every round the same, he lost a head-to-head battle with then-No. 1 Brooks Koepka at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. (Koepka shot 65 to win, McIlroy 71 to finish T4.)

When they met four weeks later in the final round of the TOUR Championship, McIlroy vowed not to treat the final round as just another day. He would give it special reverence. It worked out nicely as he shot 66 to win, while Koepka slumped to a 72 for a T3 finish.

The lesson: Emotion is bad, except when its good.

When it was over, McIlroy tried to accept his victory the way Holiday would, the way Marcus Aurelius would: without arrogance, just as he should let his setbacks go with indifference. Rory would still be just Rory to the organic apples and the rest of it at Whole Foods, and to his wife, and their library of books at home. All awaited his return as conquering hero or not.

For Rory McIlroy golfer, reader, citizen of the world it was on to the next chapter.

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Rory gets a good read - PGA TOUR/Perform Media

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March 12th, 2020 at 10:44 am

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