On the weekend after his haunting 79 was followed by his dreary 75, it's time to extol Rory McIlroy. It's time to heap further compliment upon his parents, Gerry and Rosie. It's time to note McIlroy's dreadful year in the major golf tournaments and note some considerable sunshine.
McIlroy has played 10 rounds in three majors in 28 over par, has played only two of those 10 rounds under par, has played only one of those 10 rounds in below 70 shots, has managed to wedge two 79s into those 10 rounds, and has demonstrated something rare and valuable.
It's such a useful tool he unfurled on Friday in Scotland that you wonder why more athletes don't employ it, why more agents don't suggest that more athletes employ it, whether agents either don't know what they're doing or just can't get athletes to listen to them.
It's self-deprecating humor, and it could have served a gazillion athletes in a gazillion sullen rooms through the years. To possess it is welcome. To possess it at 24 is impressive. It's a sign of uncommon inner fiber and a fine reflection upon parents, and while it might not help on the playing surface, it certainly helps off it. It takes some edge off life when every life needs some of the edge taken off.
It's such a good posture to carry through the world that it almost makes the occasional dreadful 79 and the occasional dreary 75 seem worthwhile.
After he joined U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and former No. 1 Luke Donald on the cut list, and after he deepened his wanting 2013 to show three majors that go T-25, T-41 and CUT, a reporter asked him about the good audience support he got in his Muirfield struggle.
"Yeah, it was a bit like a sympathy out there," he cracked, earning laughs.
A reporter asked about going on to Oak Hill in August in Rochester, N.Y., to a PGA Championship where he'll serve as defending champion after routing the 2012 field by eight shots.
He said he would play and enjoy the Bridgestone in Akron along the way, where he finished T-5 last year, and along his verbal way stopped to deadpan about the Bridgestone, "There's no cut," earning laughs.
And a reporter asked about his fist-pump after making a most trivial birdie on No. 17.
"That was a very big putt for me," he said, earning laughs.
Now, we have seen serious players laugh at themselves when far from contention umpteen times before. In fact, we have seen one certain serious player do so at Muirfield itself, that being Tiger Woods during that scary Scottish Saturday of 2002, when he shot 81 and loosed an ironic celebration at making a putt. We all know it's one thing to mock oneself commendably from the hinterlands of the leaderboard, perhaps another to do so after some galling, narrow loss.
Still, McIlroy might have a fighting chance at the latter, should that chance ever come. Already he has lost a major in a semi-galling fashion, with his closing 80 at the 2011 Masters, and not only did he rebound to crush the 2011 U.S. Open, but he often spoke of that Masters with a freedom and openness many athletes understandably cannot muster.
He plays a vicious, mysterious sport that "humbles you all the time," as Rose told reporters on Friday. It's a game in which a David Duval can reach No. 1, nibble near three Masters titles, contend for a 2001 U.S. Open title, then win a British Open on an idyllic day in 2001, finish 10th in the ensuing PGA Championship, then post 20 DNPs and 19 missed cuts in the 47 majors held since, including his fifth straight British missed cut on Friday.
Maybe that's even more reason that while you're playing it, while you're getting to play it for a living, it's good to keep alive a sense of the privilege. McIlroy so often has resonated that sense. He has won two majors, traveled the world and made barge-loads of money all without yet seeing age 25. He often has conveyed a joy that in sum has exceeded his shows of frustration, and he has followed a British Open 79-75 with a measure of crucial wit. Factor in that with all else, and it's quite a life he's living.