Rory McIlroy has never been shy about seeking the counsel of Jack Nicklaus, but their last meeting, a few weeks ago at the Memorial Tournament, was the pair’s first opportunity to discuss the youngster’s final round collapse at the Masters. So, what advice did the game’s most decorated player impart to the novice?
“Our conversation at the Memorial was very brief. But I remember we did talk about (Tom) Watson and the mistakes he made early in his career and how he came back and learned how to win. I did the same thing at the British Open in 1963 at Lytham. I figured out why I did those things, what I tried to do and shouldn’t have done. I have kicked myself for almost 50 years for blowing that tournament. But I knew why I did it. So I hope that I learned from it.
“That was my question to him. You made some mistakes and I hope you figured out why you made those mistakes, why you did something that didn’t follow what you normally do.”
Nicklaus drew parallels between McIlroy’s public humiliation and his own, more modest, regrets about missing out on a play-off for the 1963 Open Championship.
Should McIlroy emerge from Sunday’s final round as the new US Open champion, he’ll be the second twenty-something major champion in a matter of months to have benefitted from Nicklaus’s inervention.
“They evidently think there is value in advice from an old man. I take great interest when someone is trying to improve themselves. If I can be of help, I am delighted to do so.
“I then follow them and wish them all well. I wish they all could win.”
Eighteen major titles has a strange way of making false modesty tolerable, doesn’t it?