CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In the week after the disappointment of his final round of the Masters, in which he underperformed mightily in his pursuit of eventual winner Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy read “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown.
The listing on Amazon.com reads:
“Have you ever felt the urge to declutter your work life?
“Do you often find yourself stretched too thin?
“Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
“Are you frequently busy but not productive?”
“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done... It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.”
Over a few bottles of wine – “No, I don't mean like that. That sounds really bad. It wasn't that bad,” McIlroy said – he conceded that his choice of reading material was as intriguing as it was significant. He turns 29 today, as if this is a point in his career and his life that he needs a particularly narrow focus and effort as he pursues the things that he believes are important.
McIlroy allowed himself some time to reflect and feel a little depressed in the Masters aftermath, while he binge-watched the Showtime drama series “Billions.”
“It was just the quiet moments when you're staring off into the distance and you're thinking about a certain shot or a certain putt and … it got to the point where I needed to see a bit of daylight and get outside and go for walks and start to do my usual thing. Then it sort of went away, and then your mind starts to focus on what's coming up.”
McIlroy already has had a career that most players would covet. He owns four major championships, but one – the most important one, he says – is eluding him. Winning the Masters will be top the list on his 2019 goals – and probably every year thereafter.
“The Masters has now become the biggest golf tournament in the world, and I'm comfortable saying that,” he said Wednesday. “I don't care about the U.S. Open or the Open Championship. It is the biggest tournament in the world, the most amount of eyeballs, the most amount of hype. The most amount of everything is at Augusta. For me, it's the most special tournament that we play, and it's the one that everyone desperately wants to win, but even if I was going for my first major, it's tough. It’s tough to win.
“I don't think the Grand Slam; that's not really what I think about. I just think about trying to win the Masters and what that means and being able to go and use the Champions Locker Room, just all the cool stuff that comes along with it.”
On Thursday, McIlroy had to walk back the comments about not caring about the two storied opens.
“I didn’t mean it like that at all,” he said after shooting a 3-under 68 in the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. “I sort of was trying to say, if you look at where the U.S. Open and the [British] Open were compared to the Masters 50 years ago, they were bigger tournaments.
“After … the improvements that Augusta makes year on year, and the amount of time between the last major of the season and the first of [next] season … it’s just a notch above the other ones. I care deeply about the other [majors]. I’m a proud winner of both of those tournaments. I just think [the Masters] stands alone in terms of the four majors, and that’s all I was trying to say.”
McIlroy said the malaise and contemplation lasted only a week. But he still was able to look back only in the effort to point ahead.
“It was disappointing that's the way the week finished, but it was nowhere near as disappointing as the experience I had there a few years ago,” he said. “At least I got myself in the final group. I gave myself a chance, and that will ultimately make next year easier when I hopefully get myself back in that position.”
McIlroy said he would celebrate his birthday only with a victory on Sunday at the Wells Fargo. And even though it’s hard to believe that time has flown to such a point that McIlroy is 29, he still has what he thinks is the best part of his career ahead of him.
“At the end of the day, if you look at it big picture-wise and things that I've accomplished and the things that I've learned over the last eight or nine years, it's been a pretty good run, and hopefully the next 10 years are even better.”
That would be a book worth reading.
Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf