“Illusion never becomes real
I’m wide awake and I can see that the perfect sky is torn apart.”
—Natalie Imbruglia, presumably singing about Rory McIlroy
I can’t take this anymore. I’m happy for Matt Fitzpatrick, and I know you are too, and I’m happy for the sport of golf. But sitting here alone on another gloomy Sunday night, watching the fireflies outside the window, I can’t escape my own truth. And my truth is that I dreamed of something different this weekend. Anything else. I’m talking about real-life dreams, Rory, not like at night when I have nightmares about being chased by werewolf cats with Tyrrell Hatton’s face.
I dreamed of you winning in daylight, and why shouldn’t I? You were one shot off the lead after the first round. You were one shot off the lead after the second round. Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, a true Dustin Johnson type, but I believed it again. I believed in you. Maybe you’re like the firefly, Rory. You shone so brightly, so spectacularly, but for such a short time. And also like the firefly, I guess you don’t want to be captured in a jar.
Now that the sun has set on another specialty, I have to ask a tough question: what changed? What is different about this week than Southern Hills and the PGA, where you led completely after the first round? Or the Masters, where you made one of your patented Sunday charges when it was too late to win? And that was just this year. How long have we been doing this? How long have you persisted in giving me false hope, only to repeatedly throw it away, like when my so-called friend in high school offered me a ride home, then moved on a few feet by the time I reached the passenger door? and again until he started chasing it in a blind fury, only to learn a lesson many dogs learned long ago, which is that you can’t overtake a car on foot, and even if you do, is it basically impregnable?
How many years have I made excuses? How many times have I told everyone, “Yeah, he hasn’t won a major in a long time, but look at all those yellow top 10s on Wikipedia? You just don’t get it the way I do.”
My parents said I was a fool. “Why waste time with him?” they said. “Find yourself someone young and exciting, like Collin Morikawa, or maybe a good stableman like Zach Johnson. Did you know he’s going to be the Ryder Cup captain? And he goes to church!”
Oh, I would defend you. Sometimes viciously. “Do you remember 2014?” would yell “Remember Valhalla?! Remember Royal Liverpool? How they took on Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler and straddled the game like Colossus?! Do you remember that, you *$%&$ *ing #$(&#$ s?! LIKE A COLOSSUS!”
But those are memories now. Memories from a full decade ago. Do you know what else happened a decade ago? I have no idea. What about Enron? Something with Yugoslavia? Nobody knows. How long can a relationship last in memories? About what was, instead of what is and what will be? How long am I supposed to pretend we’re both the innocent young kids we were then, cocky and cool, you out there winning golf tournaments, me sitting around watching you win golf tournaments? How long can I pretend? that is the reality of our relationship, and not the boring “old couple sighing at each other over dinner at 4:30 pm” stagnation that has since settled in?
As harsh as it sounds, when I look at you on important Sundays now, I ask myself, “Do I really have feelings for this person? Do I even know him? Have I ever really met him, or is he just some weird parasocial relationship that will end with me writing a even weirder breakup letter to a man who wouldn’t know my name if I yelled it in his face 10 times in a row, which I did once at the Tour Championship, and I apologize for that, both to you, Golf Digest, and to all my readers, because I hold myself to a higher standard than that as a journalist, and there’s a push into deep left field by Castellanos, and I’m not sure I’m going to be published in these pages again?”
Sure, I still feel the flames. Sometimes. The Players Championship. A couple of Tour Championships. The match game. We had some good times in Dubai. The HSBC. Wells Fargo. The CJ Cup I guess? And yes, even last week, when you defended the honor of the PGA Tour by winning the Canadian Open and planting a flag for the good guys. Even then, the fire was burning, and it’s hard to light a metaphorical fire in Canada. Or a real one. Too much snow, I’m told.
But a man wears out. Hope dissipates, belief vanishes. And who are we now, really? If I am honest with myself, I am someone who has wasted almost a decade of my life waiting for a transformation. And you’re someone who used to win majors. I used to.
God, it’s hard to write those words. I know why people stick together: it’s because of time spent, because of fear of the unknown, because of the deadly force of habit. But it’s also because there was something genuine there, once. Remember how angry Phil Mickelson got in Valhalla, when you basically made your way to play in the dark? That was one of the best days of my life. Then a few months later at the Ryder Cup, he taunted him about the FBI. You never piss off Phil Mickelson again, Rory. It’s a small thing, but sometimes the little things are what keep us going. I’m not saying you have to piss off Phil Mickelson all the time, but would he kill you once or twice a year?
There’s no way around this, Rory. I can’t keep doing this. It’s time for him to see other golfers. Somebody like…
…Well, if you put me on the spot, I won’t be able to call out a name. That’s not fair. I’m not Rod Roddy here, just yelling names anyway. Sure, that’s a really sad old-fashioned reference, but it’s a metaphor for what we had. Sad. With date of. I will always wish you the best, and smile a sad, wistful smile when you win, but this is not good for either of us.
I know what you’re thinking: “You said you were leaving before. You’ll be back, as always, you disgusting. Pathetic loser. Fat aging.”
First of all, there is no need for such insults. This is a tough time for all of us, but come on, man. That is very personal.
Second, there is nothing that can bring me back. Not this time. Engrave it in stone.
(Unless, of course, you do something remotely promising before, during, or even after the Open Championship at St. Andrews. Literally anything. So? I’m back, all-in and ready to catch Rory fever, baby! !)
In conclusion, we are done.