In 2011, Rory McIlroy went into the final round of the Masters with a commanding four shot lead. He was nailed on for his first Major. Then at Amen Corner, his game fell apart. His final round 80 was a powerful lesson at the University Of Golf.
Since then Rory has won four Majors. And he cites his Masters meltdown as the turning point.
When your game collapses on a Major’s Sunday, you can let it eat away at you. Make you think that you haven’t got the bottle to secure the big titles. And thus the rest of your career is haunted by the one failure. For it has embedded itself deep into your golfing soul.
However, the very top players don’t subscribe to any such limiting self-view. Their never ending capacity to learn allows them to look critically at events. And extract the key lessons from them. And, without hesitation, put themselves forward at the earliest opportunity to test their learning under the keenest of pressure.
At Augusta in 2011 Rory McIlroy learnt how leaderboard pressure can impact on your decision-making. Impact on your clarity of thinking. Impact on your nerve. The Masters pressure was stronger than his ability to absorb it. Stronger than the trust he felt in his own process.
But he learnt. He learnt to taste and smell the pressure. To recognise it’s influence. And most importantly, how to absorb it into his game. He had to fail first before he could learn the secrets of winning.
His first Major at Congressional, has been followed by three more. And now he is ready to win at Augusta. For you can be sure, that what was experienced as over-bearing pressure in 2011, will be something entirely different in 2015.
Champions don’t experience pressure in the same way as others. For them it’s more like their talent; the big occassion and the moment. All coming together.
They embrace the importance of the event, by knowing that their game is equal to what is required. Thus they approach the big result defining moments with an air of calm, knowing that they have what it takes. Winning gives them know how. And know how is the currency that allows more winning.
Rory McIlroy could have allowed his 2011 Masters meltdown to negatively inform the rest of his career. But he had the vital qualities of a winner and a champion. His thirst and hunger for learning. And you only stop winning, when you finally tire of learning.