a bad walk spoiled

17-Rory-McIlroy-Golf

My Irish friends use a term that I think is so perfectly descriptive.

Gutted.

It means sad to the point of being depressed but also frustrated and desperate all at once. At least that’s what it means to me. I’m assigning it to my Irish friends because my buddy Kevin McKenna has used it in conversation with me and it made an impact. It’s graphic and emotive and, as stated, perfect.

Today Rory McIlroy used it in a convincing manner. McIlroy withdrew from the Honda Classic, walking off the course without finishing the ninth hole. It immediately drew reaction from all the sports entities which react to things like this. He’s going to have a tough time living this down, especially since he initially claimed to be in a bad place mentally and later switched stories to some sort of wisdom tooth issue.

McIlroy tweeted: “Apologies to all at the Honda. A tough day made impossible by severe tooth pain. Was desperate to defend title but couldn’t play on. Gutted.”

Since I don’t know exactly what was happening with McIlroy, but I still want to comment on the situation as it relates to situations we all face from time to time, I’m going to write the rest of this essay assuming that McIlroy 1) had something going on in his personal life which was bothering him to the point of shutting down his concentration, 2) he couldn’t play his way out of the funk and instead the bad golf made his frustration 100 times worse and 3) his tooth possibly hurt.

So after eight holes and another unraveling on the ninth, he simply had enough and called it a day. It was the easy way out of a day that was going from bad to worse. I’ve been in that situation on a golf course and did the exact same thing. I might have even done it in competition, but I don’t remember.

I’m imagining McIlroy likely felt his choices were quit and draw criticism or take the chance of having a complete meltdown on the course, which would’ve been worse. It’s hard to say that McIlroy made the right decision, but this might fall under the category “you’ll never know what worse luck your bad luck saves you from” or perhaps more accurately “you’ll never know what worse decisions your bad decisions save you from.” I’ll freely admit this logic is me giving a pass to one of my favorite golfers.

But here’s the other side of the coin: I hope this can be written off as a mistake of youth and that an older, more mature McIlroy will be able to harness his emotions and grind through a day like this.

I remember learning two distinct principles in high school. My high school journalism teacher instructed me that if I was going to be a sportswriter then I needed to learn to avoid using cliches. The other, maybe more profound lesson, came from Mr. Hollis, who was teaching a sort of philosophy class. He said that when you are facing a dark cloud in your life, the only thing you can do is walk through it. No matter how bad it might seem, you have to walk through it in order to learn from it and grow through it.

My gut feeling is McIlroy missed the opportunity to walk through that cloud today. I feel extremely confident that if he had gone through the motions, posted an 85 or whatever and missed the cut he would feel much better right now. I think he would be drinking a beer and putting the whole incident behind him. SportsCenter would probably focus on his bad round for a few hours and commentators on the Golf Channel would speculate about what was wrong with his game, but everyone would forget about it pretty soon.

It’s possible this walking off the course thing, though, is going to follow him for a while. He’ll be answering questions about it the rest of the season, guaranteed.

I would add to Mr. Hollis’s instruction by pointing out that when you’re walking through your dark cloud, you can’t trust your emotions. You have to subdue them because they don’t help. And if you can do that, then you will be able to steady your way out of the cloud and doing that will boost your confidence when the next dark cloud rolls into your path.

Even if you feel gutted, you have to keep walking and swinging.

Photo via The Roosevelts.

Follow The Live Ball on Twitter @live_ball.

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