McIlroy's his own man

Rory McIlroy (left) and Lee Westwood used to be close but not so much now. (MATT SULLIVAN/Reuters...

Rory McIlroy (left) and Lee Westwood used to be close but not so much now. (MATT SULLIVAN/Reuters file photo)

JON McCARTHY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 PM ET

AUGUSTA, GA. - Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy were once mentor and protege. Young McIlroy skipping through life with the veteran Westwood showing him the ropes.

These days, it’s often left to the media to update them on what the other has said.

The relationship between the second and third ranked player in the world went off the rails when McIlroy dumped his manager Chubby Chandler last October.

At the time, Westwood — who is managed by Chandler — called the decision “bizarre.”

For that comment McIlroy decided to stop following Westwood on Twitter, which we all know is a big deal in the world of 22-year-olds.

On Tuesday at the Masters, the icy relationship was brought to the surface when a reporter asked Westwood if he had seen what McIlroy had recently said; that Chandler and Westwood had led him down the wrong path.

Westwood was all business quickly brushing off the comment.

“I didn’t see it,” he said. “What path was that?”

In good times, Westwood and McIlroy seemed to make a great pair. One, a can’t-miss kid with the world on a string; the other, a wily veteran who had been put through golf’s ringer. It seemed like the perfect script for a Jimmy Roberts TV essay.

At first glance, there are plenty of lessons that McIlroy could learn from Westwood. But the reality is that the Ryder Cup teammates’ stories are too different.

Westwood has played in 55 major championships. He has eight top-5 finishes but zero victories. He understands disappointment. In fact, he has a PhD in disappointment. He is battle-tested on golf courses in every corner of the world and understands that a career is a marathon not a sprint.

“It’s quite frustrating at times when you keep coming close,” Westwood said Tuesday while massaging his left shoulder and back muscles. “I think we, as golfers, keep ourselves fitter than probably we used to … You can play better and longer into your career.”

What should all that knowledge and experience mean to McIlroy?

Simple. Nothing.

How do you explain the urgency of time to a guy who seems to have endless summers in his future?

What can you teach about how to handle disappointment to a 21-year-old who ran away with the U.S. Open two months after collapsing at the Masters?

On Tuesday, McIlroy’s cell phone went off in the interview room at Augusta. That’s right. His phone went off in the interview room while sitting beside a green-jacketed Ronald Townsend.

He was in the midst of describing last year’s heartbreaking tee-shot into the cabins on the 10th hole when the phone beeped loudly.

“Oh, sorry, phone’s going,” he said, starting to laugh, before adding, “No phones at Augusta.”

In golf every great player must forge his own path. Not because he’s better than those that came before him but because he’s different. Tiger came on Tour with a vast knowledge of golf’s history. He studied it; obsessed over it.

That’s not the case with McIlroy. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t love and respect the game.

For McIlroy, golf seems to be about showing the world who Rory is. That’s what seems to drive him, not record books.

McIlroy didn’t leave Chandler and Westwood’s team to become someone else. He left them so he could find his own way.

What did he learn from his humbling defeat here at Augusta a year ago?

“I realized that I just needed to try and be myself a little bit more.”

When asked to expand on that, he described a sight familiar to those who have watched his young career.

“I sort of have a bounce in my step and sort of a heads-up looking around at other people,” he said.

For McIlroy, right now, life is that simple. Get your “bounce” back and win a green jacket.

Will it always be this easy? Probably not.

But today is pretty good. And when you are 22 years old that is all that matters.


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