2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Rory McIlroy vs. Brooks Koepka: Exorcising the Demons
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images. Pictured: Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy
Unbelievable! He hooks it into the cabins yet again!!
It’s hard to imagine a worse golf shot from top-level professional – and even harder to imagine a better result. Not that McIlroy’s hooked tee shot on the 10th hole when leading the 2011 Masters produced a great immediate result – he made triple-bogey and would shoot 80 that day, later admitting he cried while speaking to his mother afterward – but it was almost like he needed to lose a big one in order to win, as he’d lap the field at the U.S. Open two months later.
Now, though, he’s the best player in the world. A four-time major champion. A few weeks shy of his 31st birthday, those days of moral victories and life lessons are seemingly over. He doesn’t need to hook one into the trees to realize how to win later.
And yet, there it is. Again.
Depending on whom you ask, McIlroy’s tee shot nine years ago went 75 or 100 or 125 yards – a bit less than his average driving distance of 320.2 this season. Whatever yardage that was, this one was exactly the same.
You’ve never heard a sound like it in your life – not the ball ricocheting through the trees or landing near those damned cabins again, but the take-your-breath-away gasp of some 5,000 people lining the hole, all at once. All of those patrons who were whispering the word “cabins” minutes earlier are now holding a hand over their mouths, dumbfounded over this development.
“I didn’t think that… I mean… they’re way over there…” one college-aged kid tries to tell his buddies, his voice drifting into the ether.
Rory can’t believe it, either. As he stands on the tee box for a few extra seconds, staring at where his ball landed, it’s as if he’s already adding up which is worse: Blowing the Masters in the same fashion again or having to deal with all the questions about blowing the Masters in the same fashion again.
Finally, he gently slams his driver twice to the turf and begins walking in that direction for what will become one of the most anticipated shots of his entire career.
It’s one we’ll be talking about for a long time.
With Rory barely even visible through those trees, you see a white dot squirt from amongst them, hit the fairway and take off like a frisbee skipped on pavement. This is the recovery shot he needed nine years ago, the one he couldn’t pull off, the one he’s dreamed of having back.
Still some 100 yard short of the green, McIlroy sticks a wedge shot to 8 feet and drops the critical par putt.
From there, it’s as if a weight has been lifted from his shoulders.
He plays the next eight holes coolly and calmly, like he knew the toughest part was already over.
The demon had been exorcised. Rory went back to the scene of his one-time demise and righted his previous wrong. He played those next eight holes in 4-under – six pars and eagles on each of the par-5s – and cruised home to the Masters title that had eluded him for so long.
Afterward, while sitting in Butler Cabin and reminiscing about the shot, he points to a hypothetical spot that would be just outside the building and calls it his favorite place on the golf course. Instead of tears, he finishes this one with a laugh.