Lessons From U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy

by Joe Plemon on June 22, 2011

If you, like me, have ever blown your big moment, then you, like me, are inspired by Rory McIlroy’s record breaking performance during the recent U.S. Open.  Stick with me here – you don’t have to be a golf fan to appreciate what Rory did.

Rory blew it big time just two months ago when he let a four shot lead get away from him in the final round of the prestigious Master’s tournament. Some say he choked. Some called it a melt-down and the more diplomatic simply said he let the lead slip away.

Such a defeat can instill itself into one’s ego, and whisper thoughts such as, “You are such a loser” or “You will never live this one down” or “You blew it once and you can blow it again” into one’s mind. If you have ever frozen during a job interview or allowed your mind to go blank during an important exam, you probably know what I am talking about.

So, at the U.S. Open, after McIlroy dominated the field during the first three rounds, anyone who has ever heard those demons (including me) was rooting for Rory to finish the tournament in style and claim the Championship. And how he did! According to The Golf Channel, McIlroy broke or set 12 records, including lowest score and most strokes under par. He was also the youngest to win the Open since Bobby Jones did it in 1921.

What lessons can we learn from Rory McIlroy?

Use your tough time as a motivator to work harder.

According to his Dad, the defeat at the Master’s motivated Rory to work all the harder at his game. While many would sulk and pout, our champion did just the opposite.

If you have blown that job interview, practice, rehearse and prepare for the next one. It will go better.

Don’t make excuses.

Rory handled his loss at the Masters tournament with grace and patience, blaming no one but himself and vowing to learn from his experience. The lesson is obvious: we will never learn from our experiences if we blame others or make excuses.

Think and act on positive thoughts.

When McIlroy arrived at the U.S. Open news conference, he took a picture of the silver trophy and posted it on Twitter with two references that said it all: Winning. Bounceback. Rory was preparing himself for that final round before the tournament ever started, not by simply thinking positive thoughts, but by sharing those thoughts with others. For some, this may sound too cocksure, but for Rory it worked.

Remember your lessons.

Last year, McIlroy had lunch with Jack Nicklaus, who has won more major tournaments than any golfer in history. Their discussion? How to close out tournaments. Even though Rory didn’t close out the Masters in April, he nevertheless applied his lessons from Nicklaus in the Open. Good advice is always good advice, even if it doesn’t work for you the first time you try it.

Keep things in perspective.

After the Masters and before the Open, Rory took a trip to Haiti as the UNICEF ambassador. “It’s definitely not a nice thing to see,” he said. “It gives you a huge sense of just being so fortunate and just doing normal things every day. Even having streetlights and having smooth roads, you think those things are just a given, but those people down there don’t have that, and they might not have that for the next 15 or 20 years.” McIlroy, knowing that over 50 percent of Haiti’s population is under the age of 21, has a real heart to help those children while he is young enough to relate to them.

Golf, therefore, becomes an end to a means instead of an all in all pursuit. It also gets the focus off of himself and onto those who have unbelievable needs. McIlroy, by the way, would like to go on a mission trip to Sri Lanka later this year. This is a young man who keeps things in perspective.

I am inspired and motivated by Rory McIlroy. I hope you are too.

Readers: when you “blow it”, how do you get back on track so you will do better next time?


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

cashflowmantra June 22, 2011 at 8:32 am

An incredibly inspiring performance. I think he definitely has a good head on his shoulders and may end up breaking Nicklaus’ major win record. If anyone has game right now, Rory is the man.


j schwartz June 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

i agree, use the experience, learn from it and move on.


joeplemon June 22, 2011 at 11:52 am

@cashflow — Because of his humility and gamesmanship, I would love to see him emerge as the next golf superstar. If that happens, I pray that he will be able to maintain that same humility. Breaking Nicklaus’ record for majors? Tall order, but one never knows.

@j schwartz — Right. If we could all just do that, we wouldn’t be afraid to try new things because we would know, that even if we stumble, we can learn and move on.


sap June 23, 2011 at 8:54 am

i agree with you. i want to add also, that “Keep things in perspective” – perspective is a proportional interest. there is no tools to man by himself to decide about this – so he needs to look outside of himself and try to see it in a different point of view.


Super Frugalette June 23, 2011 at 9:25 am

Whether you “blow it” or something “happens to you”, you always have the choice to pick yourself back up and start over. I think that is the main difference between victims and non-victims.


Darren June 23, 2011 at 10:27 am

Gotta keep moving forward Joe! Regroup, refocus, and get back to work.

Reminds me of the Dallas Mavericks, who came back from a tough Finals loss several years ago but are now the 2011 NBA champs!


joeplemon June 24, 2011 at 9:17 am

@sap — I like your concept of keeping things in perspective: looking outside oneself for a different viewpoint. If we can do that, the “tsunamis” in our lives might turn into mere “thunderstorms”.

@Super — Yes, victim mentality can be crippling. But one needs to move on. I believe new beginnings are always possible if we look for them.

@Darren — I hadn’t thought of the Maverick analogy, but that is a good one. MLB used to award a “comeback player of the year.” Not sure if they still do or not.


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