Rory McIlroy talks openly (as usual) about Olympics, Tiger Woods and growing up in Belfast

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We’ve just had a chance to read this fascinating interview with Rory McIlroy and had to share it.

The Independent’s Paul Kimmage published part 1 of his Q&A session with Rory McIlroy where the world number two opens up about the scrutiny he received for his decision to skip the Olympics, on Tiger Woods and life growing up wanting to be a professional golfer.

To say that McIlroy opens up is a little misleading as rarely does the four-time major champion not open up. As Kimmage points out on a number of occasions, McIlroy isn’t afraid to speak his mind and is often chastised because of it, particularly when it comes to “growing the game” and the Olympics.

But the bit that stood out for me was McIlroy’s references to his early career; the time when he was clearly very good and had a bright future ahead. He had clearly sacrificed everything for professional golf including a lot of school life but it wasn’t a smooth path from young gun to major winner for McIlroy.

On being a big shot at school:
“Because at that stage golf wasn’t cool, so I never felt like I fit in. And as time goes on, and you become a teenager, you want to fit in, but I was away so much playing golf that every time I came back to school I’d have missed out on something.”

And on success as an amateur:
“So, August 2006, and by that point I’m 16 and I’ve won the ‘West’ and the ‘Close’ and I’m basically the best amateur in Ireland. I had been travelling a lot – driving around Ireland with dad in a silver Mondeo – and had just won the Mullingar Scratch Cup. I should have been happy because I had lost in a play-off the year before, but I remember driving back and it was somewhere just over the border and I started to cry: “I’m not enjoying this anymore.” I started to punch the window and just had this complete outburst.”

“It was just one of those things where I’d almost got . . . desensitised. Winning should be the ultimate satisfaction – it’s why you practise – but I’d won everything and wasn’t getting the same sense of euphoria I’d had a couple of months previous. It was such a weird experience: I had won something, I should be happy, but I wasn’t – very strange.”

And on his early professional starts:
“I’ve always been a bit of a home bird and found it difficult to adjust. I played OK in Abu Dhabi and Qatar but missed the cut in Dubai, and then I went out to Malaysia and missed the cut there. The next week we were in Korea – another missed cut – and I remember getting back (to the hotel) on the Friday evening. I had never been to a country that felt so alien to me. I felt so far away from home and remember sitting at the end of the bed with a box of Pringles from the minibar and crying . . . (he laughs) . . . and this was four months into the 2008 season.”

Remember this is Rory McIlroy. One of the most gifted, phenomenal golfers of our time and here he is struggling to make it after all the sacrifices he had made.

It’s something I think about a lot when watching professional golf – all of the golfers that didn’t make it. I’m not even talking about the golfers who almost made it, or the ones that played on the small tours. I’m talking about everyone that sacrificed a lot for the game, and then realised they couldn’t beat the best in the from their own city.

It’s a lonely game that can entice the loners, but making a successful life from it is rare.

Check out part one of Paul Kimmage’s sit-down with Rory McIlroy.