The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: “Ah, wee Rory….you surely are a darlin’ little man….” By Brad Eastland

March 5, 2012
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     In my ongoing efforts to make the world a more interesting place by allowing you good people to view it through the glad prism of Sports, I am (it is easily observed in my prose) often lyrical, usually cynical, selectively critical, and always going for the big laugh….usually at the expense of one athlete or another whose behavior (be it on or off the field of play) has fallen below my minimum standard of acceptability.   You can’t get through this life we lead without laughter, and the world of Sports is just as funny as the real world, often more so.   So that’s where I usually point my so-called satirical sword.66683945

     But sometimes, once in awhile, I do what I call a “straight praise” column.   A column dedicated to lionizing an athlete’s pure, unvarnished, transcendent achievement.   This is one of those columns.

     And the subject of this week’s deluge of adulation is the newly crowned king of his sport.

     Rory McIlroy.

     Ah, yes, Rory McIlroy.   The “wee Irishman” himself.   Actually he’s from Northern Ireland, which technically makes him a British subject (don’t get me started).   Sunday last, by winning the Honda Classic, McIlroy climbed the mountain.   As you read this, he has just become the newest #1-ranked player in the world of golf.

     He’s 22 years old.

     I hardly know where to start, in praising this kid.   At 22, he’s now the 2nd-youngest man to ever become the world’s #1 player, Tiger Woods being the youngest way back in 1997.   Seems like a long time since we thought of Tiger as a “young” man, doesn’t it?   Only 16 men have ever held the #1 ranking, based on the complicated mathematical ranking system which has been in place for 25 years and counting.   One of the reasons only 16 guys have held the top spot is that Woods, at 623 weeks, has held that ranking for literally half of those 25 years.   It’s hard to reach golf’s summit.   It’s a very exclusive club.

     Furthermore, at first glance, McIlroy does not hit the eye as a particularly imposing athletic figure.   He’s 5-feet 9-inches tall, and about 165 pounds.   My own 15-year-old adolescent son dwarfs him.

     But when you see him attack a little dimpled white ball with a metal stick, you get it.   Few golfers I have yet laid eyes on combine the grace, athleticism, timing, club-head speed, and frightening, surprising power that this young man brings to bear upon the dimpled ball.   He’s different.   I knew that last year, when he won the U.S. Open by a whopping eight strokes, with an all-time record score of 16 under par.   He’s a true golfing savant, a Bobby Fischer-type, a Mozart in spiked shoes.

     Rory had a chance to grab the #1 spot a week ago, in the WGC “Match Play” Championships.   Match play is where you play one guy at a time, sort of like in tennis.   He got to the final.   All he had to do to realize his childhood dream of being #1 was win just one more match, against just one more guy, the nondescript Hunter Mahan.

     He choked.   He fell way behind.

     And he lost.

     So this week, at the Honda Classic, a regular “stoke play” event, he had to beat about 150 guys at once to become top dog.   An even tougher assignment.   But Rory was ready.   He came into the final round on Sunday with a 2-shot lead.   But before he even teed it up on Sunday an old familiar force of nature was out on the course putting forth a challenge, bombing long drives, burying long birdie putts, clawing his way up the leaderboard.   A man who has not even won a tournament in two and a half years, but someone whose very presence on the first page of any leaderboard used to make grown men wilt in the sun, and send them crying home to mother in defeat.


     Perhaps it was only fitting.   One all-time great passing the torch to (perhaps) another.   Suddenly it didn’t matter that Woods had not won a thing since 2009, and that his personal life had been turned inside out in a gigantic sex scandal, followed by divorce and the ruination of his reputation.   He made up five shots on Rory before the wee Irishman even teed off on the first hole.

     The contrast in imagery couldn’t have been more telling.   Woods in black pants and an angry red shirt, Woods a man of color wearing a dark hat, a dark scowl, and burdened by a dark recent history of shame and disappointment.   McIlroy, conversely, greeted the early afternoon drizzle all in white; white pants, white windbreaker, white cap.   He blinded the eye, and reflected the sun.   It was the Dark Knight versus the White Knight for sure.

     On the 18th hole, Woods produced the kind of shots that really only he is still able to consistently produce.   A massive drive and a perfect long fairway iron gobbled up all 560 yards of the par five.   His second shot came to rest only seven feet from the cup.   He buried the eagle putt center-cut, and as he walked off the course with a final-round 62, eight under for the day, he was only two shots off McIlroy’s lead.   That 62 is the lowest final round of golf Woods has ever shot in his entire career.   The original golfing Mozart has apparently, suddenly, snapped out of his three-year slump.    And it was as if he was saying to young Rory, “If you wanna be number one, kid, you’re going to have to do it at my expense….and even though I suck lately I’m still King out here!”     

     Shoore and begorrah, and Saints be praised, Rory was up to the challenge.   He hit every shot he had to hit, made every putt he had to make, and the lead never shrank below two.   When his two-foot par putt fell on 18, he was the new king.   I suspect the Emerald Isle set new barroom records that day and that night for pints pulled….

     I wonder what will become of McIlroy in the next several years.   I wonder what he will achieve in the next two decades of what could—if he stays focused and healthy and keeps his pants zipped up— indeed be a two-decade reign.   Will he pile up 14 majors like Tiger did, maybe even make a run at Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships?   A record Tiger had in the bag before his demons got the best of him?   I don’t know.   I know the kid will surely win more ‘grand slams’, two, three, five, maybe seven more, it all seems quite likely, but 14 or 18 or 19 grand slams is another pint ‘o Guinness altogether.

     But in one sense that doesn’t even matter.   Right now life is pretty darn good for the young man from Holywood in County Down.   Right now he has a beautiful new girlfriend (former tennis world-#1 Caroline Wozniacki), all the money he could ever spend, too many endorsement deals to count, a record U.S. Open triumph to build his resume around, everyone close to him says his head is screwed on straight….and he’s only 22 years old.   Dare I say, as athletes go, Rory has the tiger by the tail….

     …..and he’s now the Number One Ranked Player in the world.   At 22.   He’ll only get better with age.    Golf belongs to him, and for a good long while, if he has the stones to keep it.   It’s his sport to keep or to lose.  

     All the kings are dead.   Long live the King.

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image002

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered literary giant, and a big fan of 22-year-old kids like Rory McIlroy who have already figured it all out.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.   His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, of triumph, and of utter despair, called WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for that title on,, or   And then order it.   And then READ it.   And then tell everyone about it.   He thanks you.







One Response to “The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: “Ah, wee Rory….you surely are a darlin’ little man….” By Brad Eastland”

  1. Loved this article!

    Hope all is well.


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