People are still talking about the wild ending of the 2011 Masters and Charl Schwartzel's amazing birdie-filled final holes. But 2011's biggest story was Rory McIlroy turning Masters heartbreak into U.S. Open triumph two months later.
Teeing off with the lead on Sunday at Augusta was daunting for Tiger or Jack -- no matter how many green jackets they'd won -- and as a 21-year-old looking for his first major, Rory was understandably nervous. The trouble started early with his putter. He hadn't putted well all week, and after a couple of short misses, he lost confidence, which put more pressure on his ballstriking. Augusta's greens are so fast that an approach shot that misses by two yards leave a 60-foot putt, and there's no rough to slow down shots that miss the green. When his putting problems bled into the rest of his game, Rory didn't have a chance.
A lot of things impress me about Rory, but what impressed me most was how he handled shooting 80 on the biggest day of his golfing life. When I interview players after a bad round, I know they're not usually in a talkative mood, but Rory was gracious and honest about what happened. He admitted that his putting was a problem that day. Then he spent the next two months working on fixing it, and he putted beautifully on his way to capturing the 2011 U.S. Open title.
I can't help but think that winning the U.S. Open was the result of Rory admitting hist failure at the Masters. You'll never get better at golf by denying your weaknesses. If Rory was in denial, he never would have made changes to his putting stroke. You need to admit your weaknesses, and then work on turning them into strengths the way Rory did.