An open letter to Rory McIlroy

June 6, 2012

June 5, 2012

Hey Rory,

How's tricks? Tough, I'm sure. It's been a brutal month for you. Quadruple bogeys? Tossed clubs? I can go to Bethpage Black and see that. Then there's the guy in the red shirt. As my friend Murph likes to say, who opened the coffin and let that dude out? The sports world is still shaking from his flop shot on the 16th at Memorial. I know you were off the premises, but that was a game-changer, as they say in politics. Your hero, Tiger Woods, is alive and he hasn't eaten in forever.

Look, I don't have that shot, either, but do me a favor and listen to the advice I'm about to give. I'm here to help you on the eve of your U.S. Open defense.

The first thing you should know is, I wasn't at Congressional for your big moment last year. My wife gave birth to triplet boys last June. (Yeah, we had our own things going on). But between diaper changes, I watched you destroy that golf course and everything on it. It was silly. You were brilliant.

Then a funny thing happened. The golf world got a little drunk. Our magazine, Sports Illustrated, put you on the cover — rightly so — but declared the victory as the dawning of "Golf's New Era." That did you no favors.

Or how about Padraig Harrington's statement that you'd be the one to pass Jack's record 18 majors. He said that before you'd even won your first! Paddy's a good man, but that was a whopper. (Even you recognized that.)

So here we are, one year later, and you are in the worst slump of your career. After a win at Honda and a playoff loss to Rickie Fowler at Quail Hollow, you've missed three straight cuts. You can't find the fairway. You said you haven't been practicing hard enough. People are talking.

Let's tackle the issue of practice. (Yeah, we're talking about practice). You need to get after it, kid. Listening to you say that you haven't been grinding on the tee hurt my ears. WWHD? (What Would Hogan Do?) Between Tiger, Phil, Rickie, The Duf, Kooch, Luke and Lee, there will always be somebody getting after it somewhere. The answers are in the dirt, Rory, and that is a truth that transcends golf. You had to kick Magic Johnson and Larry Bird out of the gym. Jerry Rice ran wind sprints until his hamstrings were on fire. That is what it takes. You know that.

You can always learn things on the practice tee. Tiger developed a stinger, Phil a baby cut. Practice breeds confidence, which breeds winning. Be the guy who shuts down the range.

Then there's the whole celebrity thing. You and Caroline Wozniacki make a real nice couple, but you'd better have thick skin. That can be tough in the Internet age. After you missed the weekend at Memorial and Caroline lost in the third round of the French Open, the web went nuts. "More woe for McIlroy…and his girlfriend Wozniacki," wrote the Daily Mail.

"Has it all gone wrong for the golden couple?" asked the Belfast Telegraph.

The papers are just clearing their throats, Rory. It's going to get heavier.

After your victory at Honda, I followed you all the way to the car. You stopped by the locker room to grab some finger food and sign some flags, and then you were off to New York to see Caroline. When you zipped back down to Miami for Doral, you opened with a lackluster 73 and still finished third. Many of us sniffed at that decision to fly to New York, but that's what journalists do. We sniff. We dig. We ask questions. Would you have shot 68 without the New York detour? You get the question, don't you, bud?

Listen, Rory, you're young. You're allowed to have a life and a well-rounded one at that, but I want you to slow your roll, just a touch. You can't be everywhere, even if those private jet companies tell you that you can. You and Caroline will figure it out.

The last bit of advice is for you and the rest of us. We've got to let your career develop before we proclaim you the next Tiger or Jack or Faldo or whomever. You are the first Rory. You used to hit pitch shots into the family dryer. You have a golf swing that will be studied until the end of time. It's all good, Rory.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." It's one of my favorite quotes. Pick up some Emerson, Rory. Good luck in Memphis. See you in San Francisco.

Damon Hack