A mere month before the ill-fated intersection of an Escalade and a Fire Hydrant, golf was Tiger Woods and everyone else. He had no sustainable rivals. Rory McIlroy had just turned twenty and was winding up a year of firsts - first win, first Masters, first Players Championship. I wrote the post below at that moment in time, and rediscovering it today brought back the decidedly more innocent era when Tiger reigned supreme and Rory was the impish Ulsterman who swilled Champers and celebrated victory with his childhood sweetheart.
Rory McIlroy's Autumnal Weekend... Under Monty's Watchful Eye - September 29, 2009
I'm guessing it was his girlfriend on the other end, wondering how things were going in Paris. Girlfriends do tend to wonder about such things... it's part of normal girlfriend behavior... particularly if you're dating a rapidly rising star like Rory Mcilroy... and you're only 16, like Holly is.
At Saint-Nom-La Breteche golf course, the weekend featured a pure cerulean sky and forests tinged with a warm ocherous glow. The International field was energized and upbeat, and the boys were getting on really well. However, for young Rory the mood this dazzling Autumn weekend was tempered by the disquieting presence of Colin Montgomerie.
Monty was in Paris to assess players for his 2010 Ryder Cup team and was already irked by the absence of a few guys he felt should have been in there, but weren't.
Rory also realized that his own reckless statement about the Ryder Cup was still fresh in the curmudgeonly captain's mind as well. It had been a careless thing to say; to refer to the revered Ryder Cup as an "exhibition match".
Yes, for a brief moment Rory had found himself channeling Tiger...then quickly realized Tiger would never have made the statement publicly. So there had been the backtracking, the smoothing things over, and on the surface everything seemed to be OK on this Autumnal French golf course, but Rory wasn't completely at ease.
Once the matches got underway, and a fifth consecutive victory began to seem likely for Great Britain/Ireland, Rory felt like he could finally chill, and by the time he got to his match with Henrik Stenson... the match he wanted all week... he was able to win it, and win accolades from the international assemblage of top golfers. What's more, the once skeptical Mr. Montgomerie was now saying he wanted Rory Mcilroy out first for the Europeans at Celtic Manor... Rory would be asked to lead the charge as a Ryder Cup rookie.
So finally, in the waning Sunday afternoon sunshine the impish Ulsterman got to enjoy a bit of that idyllic weekend in France. He swilled champagne right out of the bottle and called Holly. Told her he missed her... and his new Ferrari. She laughed, the way shy 16-year-olds do. Knowing her boyfriend was destined for greatness but not knowing quite how to feel about it.
As for Rory himself, he's headed to Scotland and the Old Course at St Andrews for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Implausible as it may sound, he finds the Old Course easy. After all, he's played it 15 or 20 times... and the worst he's ever scored there in either his armature or professional career was a 69.
There's so much more I could write about Rory Mcilroy and his unique gift for golf. It'll be fascinating to watch him evolve... from this indian summer weekend at the beginning of his career... to whatever lofty heights he may reach over the next decade.
Photos: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images ❀ ❀