In victory, Rory McIlroy apologized. Here’s why he made a meaningful gesture
Rory McIlroy found Robert MacIntyre. He needed to give him something.
Of course, MacIntyre wanted more. He nearly had it all actually. He was going to win.
He was going to win!
He was going to win after the rally. This was something. Down five on Sunday at the Renaissance Club, MacIntyre went to work during the final round of the Scottish Open. He birdied 3. And 6. He eagled 10. He birdied 14 and 15, though bogeyed 16. But magic was coming.
He was going to win after the shot. The shot. This was a beauty, though the one that had preceded it on the par-4 18th — a tee shot very left — was ugly. But MacIntyre’s ball had found trampled-down grass, and he maneuvered a fairway metal through a stiff wind and across 213 yards, to 1 yard. He birdied from there. He was your leader. He double fist-pumped. He waved to fans. They cheered back. He broke down on his way to the scoring tent.
He was going to win on his home soil. Bobby Mac grew up about four hours west of North Berwick, in Oban, and victory would have been — actually, we’ll let him describe that.
“I had to take a minute coming off 18. I mean, that’s why I play this sport. That’s why I’m in the Scottish Open, and if not the Open, the Scottish Open will be up there with the event I want to play for the rest of my life. It’s one I’ve dreamed of winning since I watched at home, and I thought today coming down, once I birdied 18, I thought, this might be the one.”
He was going to win after last week, when he had led in the final round of the DP World Tour’s Made in Himmerland event, then triple-bogeyed with six holes to play. That hurt. “I mean, last week, I felt like I had two hands on the trophy and I let it go,” he said. On Sunday, he was going to win and earn his PGA Tour card. He was going to win and made a solid case for the Ryder Cup, though that still may have happened.
And MacIntyre was still winning, until McIlroy stuck one to 4 feet on the par-3 17th and birdied to pull even. And they were still even, until McIlroy worked a 2-iron to 10 feet on 18 — “one of the best shots I’ll hit in my career” — and birdied to win.
And MacIntyre didn’t win.
So McIlroy found MacIntyre.
Perhaps what was to come was just a gesture of sportsmanship. Perhaps McIlroy saw something of himself in him. This has been a year for the Northern Irishman. Almost to the day last July, at the Open Championship at St. Andrews, it was he who was going to win, only to not. That extended his drought of years without a major victory to eight, and should he fall short next week at this year’s Open, it will be nine. Folks argue that’s too long. Shoot, he doesn’t dispute that. There’s more, of course. There’s that LIV Golf-Saudi PIF-PGA Tour thing. Here, just know that after singing the praises of the Tour in its fight versus Saudi-backed LIV, only for the Tour to turn around and make a deal to be Saudi-backed itself, McIlroy believes he’s “a sacrificial lamb.”
“I think they were trying to do what was — they were trying to do what was right for the Tour, which in turn means what’s right for the players on that tour,” McIlroy said Thursday to reporters on the grounds. “I think I read a quote, they were negotiating their survival, right. So I think that’s a very fair thing for a business to do.
“I think I’m apathetic toward all the noise around it. Again, as long as the tournaments that I play keep on existing, I’ll be very happy to play them and be a professional golfer and try to get a little bit closer every day to try and master my craft.”
If you’re a fan, you maybe feel for him.
With that, McIlroy needed to give MacIntyre something.
An apology. Two words. They were overheard by Golfweek’s Adam Schupak.
They talked for a couple seconds. They hugged. They went their own ways.
MacIntyre was going to win.
Then McIlroy did.
Editor’s note: To read the complete account from Golfweek’s Adam Schupak, please click here.