Where does McIlroy go from here


The best new story in golf pauses.

Rory McIlroy finally gets to catch his breath.

You wonder what the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland will make of these last two weeks, how he’ll sort through what happened to him losing the Masters last week and the Maybank Malaysian Open this week. He’s got time to process it all now with two weeks off, time to find the meaning in the experiences. That makes these next two weeks almost as important as the last two.

I can’t wait to see what McIlroy does next. He is golf’s leading man right now. I don’t care that Charl Schwartzel and Matteo Manassero both beat him. I’m more interested in where McIlroy’s headed than I am almost anyone else in the game, outside Tiger Woods.

In golf's ongoing story, McIlroy’s seized the protagonist's role in back-to-back defeats. He’s hooked us in the way the best storytelling always does. I'm fully engaged in his character, and I'm intensely interested in what’s going to happen to him.

Will he overcome? Will he be overcome?

These are some of literature's best questions.

As McIlroy sorts through the last two weeks, it won’t ultimately matter what the pundits say, or even what McIlroy’s most trusted confidants say. What matters is what he decides the experiences mean. Because the last two weeks, the Sunday failures, they feel defining; we're just not sure what they will end up defining.

Tom Watson went through worse than this before winning eight majors. We’ve all mostly forgotten his painful, early failures. Watson hasn’t.

“They called me a choker,” Watson once recalled. “It really ruffled my feathers. I knew I could deal with the pressure.”

What will McIlroy know when we see him next? What will he know when he tees it up next at the Wells Fargo Championship? That’s where he closed the door so formidably on his first PGA Tour title with that final-round 62 last year. The young man’s got a lot working for and against him right now.