Rory McIlroy: At the Effect of His Ego

It was a whirlwind first day at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami, Florida.

There is a five-way tie at the top between Tiger Woods, Freddie Jacobson, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Bubba Watson. They all shot 6-under 66. Tiger had nine birdies in his round. 

That’s a pretty stellar group of leaders, but just a stroke behind them are Hunter Mahan, Peter Hanson, Phil Mickelson and Steve Sticker. Mahan continues his good play from the Accenture Match Play Championship, Hanson is showing up at the top of more and more leaderboards, Mickelson played a nifty wedge off a cart path for birdie and Stricker continues to prove that you don’t need to be crazy long to be good. He was outdriven on 18 by Bubba and Phil, but his approach shot ended up being the tightest of three good shots. He didn’t make the putt, but it was quite a exhibition.

And the guys at 4-under are every bit as illustrious as those guys. You have Keegan Bradley, Ian Poulter, Bo Van Pelt, Dustin Johnson, Charles Howell III and Justin Rose.

Last week’s winner, Michael Thompson, posted a very respectable 3-under as did Rickie Fowler, newly resurgent, Geoff Ogilvy and Jason Dufner.

Luke Donald, playing with Tiger, managed 2-under, but the third in that pairing, Rory McIlroy, hung on for a 1-over 73.

McIlroy had a very eclectic round with 1 eagle, 3 birdies, 8 pars and 6 bogeys. He averaged 319.5 yards off the tee, but he only hit 3 fairways and 11 greens. That explains the bogeys.

He said that it was a “work in process” and that he was “staying patient,” but it was a very common golfer’s comment he offered later that was bothersome. He said that “It was nice to sneak in a couple birdies on the last three holes and make it look somewhat respectable…”

This need for the round to look respectable is a consideration of an overactive ego.

I dealt with this matter in the earliest days of the blog in “Embarrassment,” but it is such a universal affliction of human beings — we all do it — it bears revisiting. Here’s a pull-quote from that post:

Why is this? It’s the ego. That accumulated reaction to life’s experiences that is shrinkwrapped over our real selves, our spiritual essence. The ego needs to protect itself from assault because it is ephemeral and afraid. Our essence knows at its core that it is eternally perfect and needs no protection. It is impervious, it is pure, it is at peace.

As the post goes on to say, when the ego is firing away, it gets in the way and keeps us from being present to what we’re trying to do.

In a perfect world, we want to operate in an ego-less way because of its distraction, and the only way to do that is to be so practiced at diving deeply into the present that ego considerations are sublimated.

When Sully Sullenberger put that Airbus A320 down in the Hudson River in New York City, he was so absorbed in the team effort with his co-pilot to get through the checklists and landing procedures, the rapidly depleting altitude left little room for ego considerations about whether he might screw up and how others might view that.

Golf isn’t a life and death affair, of course, but that quiet, egoless resolve that Sullenberger exhibited as he went about ditching his airplane is a good model for how we might be more effective in the game.

And hopefully get to that day where we feel no need to “make it look somewhat respectable.”

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