According to McIlroy’s lifelong golf teacher, Michael Bannon of the Bangor Golf Club in Northern Ireland, McIlroy was tempted just once to model himself after another player. He was 13 when Bannon caught him trying to imitate a Tiger Woods follow through. Bannon told him to quit it. “Why don’t you just swing like Rory McIlroy,” he said.
His personality seemed as easy as his swing, which accounted for the depth of affection he received from the American audience. From the first hole on Sunday when he sank a six-foot birdie putt to make it apparent he intended to seize the trophy, the galleries chanted for him, “Ror-ee, Ror-ee.” By the par-3 10th hole, where he blazed his six-iron right over the flagstick and backed the ball up to three inches, almost holing out, the galleries were uttering a steady deep-throated noise, “Roar-eee!! Roar-eee!”
Off the course, he was generous with his galleries, conversational and steadfastly real. “He’s very courteous, well-mannered and gives people time,” Bannon said.
His agent Chubby Chandler said, “He remembers to thank his Mom.”
Will that change, as he becomes a calibrated public brand, and perhaps even commodified within an inch of his life? His friends doubted it. He still lives in the village of Holywood, his home town just east of Belfast, where he dates a university student he has known since his school days. He owns a six-room house, where he stocked the garage with a Ferrari. He was looking forward to returning to the village to celebrate with his family and mates, who on Sunday night kept the Holywood Golf Club bar, which used to be managed by his father Gerry, open and serving late. “With everything going on my account as well, probably,” he said.
He has the usual preoccupations for a guy his age who has become staggeringly wealthy. After he shot a 65 in the first round of the Masters in April, he was asked what he talked about on the course with his playing partners Rickie Fowler and Jason Day. “Cars and boats,” he admitted.
None of this is to say he is ordinary. Just that, as Padraig Harrington observed, McIlroy may be well equipped to deal with the extraordinary success that seems to be his future.
“He’s 22 years old and this is indeed his destiny,” Harrington said. “So I think he’s well prepared for it. You know what, I think he’s got very good balance in his life. So I don’t think this is going to be too earth shattering for him.”