Should Rory McIlroy contend for the first time at the one tournament that has confounded him during his rapid ascent to the golf summit, the Players Championship, don’t be surprised if he breaks into music on the final green at Sawgrass on Sunday.
McIlroy revealed how recourse to that time-honoured terrace rebuke, “You only sing when you’re winning”, was given fresh application during the march to his first major victory at the US Open at Congressional two years ago.
Pop chanteuse Adele was the unlikely muse behind that success, providing the soundtrack to victory with her 2011 hit Rolling in the Deep.
“I didn’t sing it quite as well as her, but it played every morning on the radio, so it was a song stuck in my head that week,” said McIlroy, who has become a reference point in golf. His thoughts are sought on the hot topic of the day, whether it be a golfing matter or the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Sorry David Moyes, McIlroy would prefer Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford.
He arrives at golf’s richest event in the best shape of the year, in command once more of his considerable golfing faculties and those between his ears. It was the power of the psyche, and how he learned to control it, that produced the Adele affiliation.
Adam Scott’s victory at the Masters last month after his collapse at the Open last year mirrored McIlroy’s own redemption song at Congressional following the epic collapse at Augusta eight weeks earlier.
“For me the Masters was a completely new experience, and new feelings, feelings that I had never felt before,” McIlroy added. “I learned a lot from that afternoon in terms of, “okay, what are you going to do differently?” What are you going to do not to have that happen again? Do you try to think of something else? Do you sing a song? Whatever you do, everyone treats it differently. I am sure Adam thinks differently from me. For me it was just staying in the present; the only thing you can control is that next shot and that is something I had to learn.”
A win in 2013 eludes him and Sawgrass offers a stiff test of his new attitude. “This is a tricky golf course. You have to think your way around it, be strategic,” said McIlroy who turned 24 last week. With each birthday he adds a layer of hard-earned experience and is further removed from the folly of youth.