I was lucky enough to be in a corporate hospitality suite last Thursday for the first day of the Open. The suite I was in felt like a five-star hotel, way beyond the notion of a mere tent with a few prawn sandwiches. It was called the Claret Jug suite (for those that have been under a rock or not interested in golf, the Open trophy is in the shape of a claret jug).
The suite itself had its own balcony which was positioned along the fairway of the first hole. At one o'clock or so, the balcony was packed out getting ready to watch Rory McIlroy tee off.
I'm a big fan of McIlroy's. He has worn his global stardom very well. He still supports local charities; he gives his time to this place on a regular basis and he seems to be respectful and genuinely sportsmanlike towards his fellow professionals. I really wanted him to win The Open and it seemed like the perfect script for the championship's return to Royal Portrush.
He lined up his tee shot with his driver and with me and many thousands of others urging him on, he proceeded to hook his shot badly to the left. There was a gasp of horror. With some doubt about its location, McIlroy then changed his club down to an iron in order to play his provisional shot more safely.
Somehow, the man who is the outstanding European golfer of his generation and a regular world number one in recent years duffed that shot into the rough too. And from there he played into further rough until basically the tournament was over for McIlroy by the end of the first hole. I watched it all and actually couldn't really believe it.
What I have been wondering about since is how that happened? McIIroy has hit that drive countless times and he has been under immense pressure before and come through it. How did one of the best golfers in the world duff two shots in a row and lose himself a tournament he would dearly loved to have won?
I don't have the answer, though I have thought about it in business terms too. What would the business equivalent be? Messing up a negotiation which you've done many times before because you missed a key element? Was it pressure that got to McIlroy?
I recently had the great opportunity to jointly interview Peter Canavan as part of the Saffron Business Forum's summer lunch. Many GAA fans will remember the famous moment when Tyrone had a free kick to win the All-Ireland semi-final in 2005 and Owen Mulligan was ready to kick the free that would win the game but Peter Canavan, Tyrone's master free-taker (and Mulligan's former teacher at Holy Trinity in Cookstown) had come on as a sub and there was a smiling moment when Mulligan handed the ball over to Canavan who proceeded to kick the point and win the game.
For Canavan, it was just many years of practice bearing fruit - the methodical, non-emotional repetition of what he'd practiced thousands of times before. It's what you would have expected from McIlroy on that first tee and, ironically, what he produced on the second day when he played sparkling golf and had the joint best round of the day.
I suppose the answer to the McIlroy question when I do think about it though, is emotion. McIlroy was emotional. He was fired up Portrush and somehow that emotion interfered with his motor impulses which normally send his drives soaring down the middle of the fairway.
And that's what happens in business too. Emotions help to drive owners' decisions. Sometimes that's a good thing, leading to good hires and great relationships which deliver profit and expansion. On other occasions an overly emotional approach can lead to bad decisions, but business wouldn't be the same without emotion.
And neither would sport. Look at Shane Lowry, everybody loves him because he plays with emotion and this week, he realised some of his potential with a brilliant display of his technical ability too. He played incredible golf and if it wasn't going to be a McIlroy win, having another Irishman, particularly the very likeable Offaly man, as a winner was the next best thing. He is a very worthy champion. And a very popular winner.
Finally, a word of congratulations to the public sector here for the way they handled everything. The transport, the policing, the medical staff, the roads, Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland, the mainstream Civil Service and everybody else.
They're a fairly easy target when things go wrong. I haven't heard of anything major going wrong in the run-up to or over the weekend, it was the perfect shop window for this place, and they did their job and delivered as promised. And if there was emotion, it was channelled positively. Here's to more Irish winners, particularly McIlroy, of The Open when it comes back to Royal Portrush (as it surely will) in the near future.
Share this Post