Jack Nicklaus and Rory McIlroy had a conversation at the Memorial Tournament a few weeks ago – their first exchange since McIlroy shot a final-round 80 to lose The Masters. Like Socrates, Nicklaus did not tell the 22 year old what to learn from his major experience, so as to ensure McIlroy learned something.
“Well I didn’t really give him advice so much as I asked him a question. I said, ‘Sorry about what happened at the Masters. I hope you learned from it,’” Nicklaus said during a phone interview with the Golf Channel on NBC.
“All of us have had our problems and coming down the stretch we’ve had to learn what mistakes we’ve made and how we handle ‘em and what we did. And he says, ‘I think I did.’ And I said, ‘Make sure you did because the next time you get yourself in that position you have to remember what you did and you didn’t do and you got to remember what you want to do and go do it.’”
Clearly, McIlroy has remembered what he has to do – and maybe even learned something extra to propel him to a record-setting win at Congressional.
Nicklaus admits he has taken a shining to McIlroy because of his desire to soak up the wisdom of those who have had tremendous success.
“He wants to learn. He wants to get better,” Nicklaus said. “And when you’ve got young people who want to do that, you take an interest in them and you want to follow their career and wish them well.”
The 18-time major winner also likes how McIlroy carries himself, saying, “I love his little moxy and sort of the way he walks, sort of like he’s a little cocksure of himself. I kinda like that in a guy. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself.”
He added, “He’s got a lot of people rooting for him. And he’s a nice kid. He’s got a pleasant personality. He’s humble when he needs to be humble and confident when he needs to be confident.”
Asked to look into the future, Nicklaus sees the same thing McIlroy has displayed for the last four days – really, the last two years.
“I think this kid’s going to have a great career. There’s not any question about it. He’s got all the components.”
With his Open win on Sunday, McIlroy will be some four months younger than Nicklaus when he won his first major in 1962 in a playoff against Arnold Palmer at the U.S. Open. Nicklaus made a different kind of statement to beat Palmer for the maiden win of his 18.
“He’s ahead of my major pace and his score is way ahead of my pace,” Nicklaus said with a laugh.