Rory McIlroy addressed his shirt-tearing rage. Here’s why all golfers can relate

On Wednesday, right, Rory McIlroy explained what triggered his post-round meltdown in Dubai, left.

There are many words that can be used to describe Rory McIlroy when he sits down to meet the press: thoughtful, smart, honest, engaged, funny.

On Wednesday, he was annoyed, for a moment or two, anyway.

His frustration, in his Hero World Challenge pre-tournament presser, came after the third time he was asked about his shirt-tearing incident in Dubai two weeks ago. To recap, McIlroy was tied for the lead deep in the final round of the DP World Tour Championship. Then came a wicked stroke of bad luck. On the 15th hole, his wedge approach shot struck the flagstick and scooted backward into a greenside bunker. That led to a bogey, which he followed with another bogey after a three-putt on 16. He parred 17 then made a mess of the par-5 closer, making another bogey. It all added up to a two-over 74 that left him five back of winner Collin Morikawa.

McIlroy didn’t talk to reporters afterward but a widely circulated photo of him staring at his phone near the interview area spoke volumes about his mood. That was because of the state of his shirt, which had a gaping tear that exposed his right pec.

Given this was McIlroy’s first interview since the meltdown, he had to expect questions or references would come in the Bahamas on Wednesday, and come they did. After the third question on the topic — about what happened to the shirt — McIlroy snapped. “I went to the pro shop, bought a new one, threw that one in the trash,” he said. He looked up to the press-tent rafters, shook his head incredulously and added, “I mean, this f—ing ripped shirt, Jesus.”

It was a striking moment, because it’s rare that McIlroy loses his cool in this kind of setting. Clearly, he was upset about having to keep revisiting the matter but no doubt he was also irked at himself for letting polo-gate happen at all. Earlier in the press conference, McIlroy expounded on why he was so wound up in Dubai.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy rips shirt in rage after meltdown at European Tour finale
By: Nick Piastowski

“What I was angry about was how I reacted to the bad break, not the bad break or the fact I didn’t win the golf tournament, because Collin played great,” he said. “And even if I hadn’t had that bad break, there was no telling that I was going to win the golf tournament. It was just my reaction to that bad break that made me angry because I basically lost my head after that and made a bogey on 16. So it was more just angry at the fact of how I responded to that was my big thing.”

Tour pros, they’re just like us. How many times have you let a lip-out, bad bounce or crummy lie creep into your psyche and ruin a round?

Tiger Woods has seen it, too — most recently in his son Charlie’s game. On Monday, in an interview with Golf Digest, Woods said that he was mystified by some of the high scores Charlie had been posting at junior events, given his son’s talent. When Tiger was able to get back out and attend Charlie’s tournaments, the culprit quickly became evident. “He’s going along great, he has one bad hole, he loses his temper, his temper carries him over to another shot and another shot and the next you thing you know it compounds itself,” Tiger said.

That sounds a lot like how McIlroy’s round in Dubai unspooled.

The solution? McIlroy could do worse than heeding Tiger’s advice to Charlie.

“I said, ‘Well, son, I don’t care how mad you get. Your head could blow off for all I care. Just as long as you’re 100 percent committed to the next shot is all that matters. The next shot should be the most important shot in your life, it should be more important than breathing. Once you understand that concept, you’ll get better.”

alan bastable

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.