When Losing is Winning

21 year-old golfer, Rory McIlroy, started imploding on the tenth hole of the final round of The Masters on Sunday. It was tough to watch his game and his confidence disintegrate over the last nine holes. Up until then he had been leading a very impressive field, including Tiger Woods.

Interestingly, Woods, 35, had a tough day Saturday. He missed far too many putts. Had he made even half of them, he’d likely have been at the top of the leader board with McIlroy going into the final round.


I saw Woods being interviewed yesterday after his tough day, and I saw McIlroy being interviewed today after letting The Masters slip through his fingertips. I was amazed at how differently they handled the interviews. The surprise was that the 21 year-old was gracious in defeat and Woods, who still had a day to play, was bordering on belligerent yesterday. Had the roles been reversed, you might have forgiven a young kid for being upset. But a 35 year-old man should know better.

I’ll grant you, Tiger has never been known for being nice to the press when he was playing poorly. But he was hostile to the CBS reporter conducting the live interview yesterday. Tiger answered questions with a minimum of words, while looking at the reporter like he was a piece of dirt on the bottom of his shoe. (Most golfers are contractually obligated to do interviews with the networks that carry the big tournaments. Tiger made it clear that he would fulfill his obligation and no more.)

In stark contrast, Rory McIlroy was clearly disappointed today, yet he politely and patiently answered every question he was asked. After the second “you must be disappointed question” Rory actually had the presence of mind to take control of the interview and make it work for him. Displaying a calm that I’m sure he didn’t feel, he said that while he was disappointed in his game today, he wanted to celebrate the positives too. For 63 holes he led The Masters.

When pushed further about what he might have learned from his round today, McIlroy said, “If I reflect on it over the next few days, I’ll probably be able to tell you a little bit better. But I can’t really put my finger on it. ”

And even though I’m sure he’d rather have been off licking his wounds somewhere, Rory did his best to give the reporter even more. He added that overall he lost confidence in his putting and second-guessed himself today.


I don’t know if Rory McIlroy has been media trained. He may very well just be a natural. He strikes me as a nice young man, who knows how lucky he is to play the game he loves.

I am guessing that he’s also smart enough to know that the longer he’s interviewed—the longer his sponsors (on his hat and shirt) are seen on live television.

And if I’m one of McIlroy’s sponsors, I am not only celebrating the fact that my company is getting a ton of airtime on network television, but the fact that Rory’s a class act. Even though he lost, I’d be proud that this kid was representing our brand because that kind of poise and grace–on the heels of an agonizing defeat–has a value beyond measure.

At 21, Rory McIlroy has done what 35 year-old Tiger Woods has never been able to do: he turned a loss into a huge WIN for himself and his sponsors.

photo credit: proforged via photopin cc

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