RORY THROWS AWAY US OPEN - IN 2011 I FEARED DAYS LIKE THESE

Rory 2

Rory! Rory! Rory! So sad. I was gutted. I can only imagine how you feel.

I was sure that it was Rory’s year. On the 69th tee of the 124th US Open Rory McIlroy is 2 shots clear. Bryan Dechambeau is struggling. Play it canny Rory and this is yours. I was thinking that he just might get the monkey off his back but I was so nervous.

Three bogeys, two of them by missing 3 foot putts and Rory throws it away yet again. 

Doug Sanders is famous for missing a 3 foot putt on the last green to beat Jack Nicklaus in the 1970 British Open. He lost after a play off. Well, Doug can rest in peace. Rory did it twice in 4 holes, not having missed a 3 foot put all season.    

I have been watching golf for 50 years and I have never known anyone like Rory. To be playing like one of the best natural golfer in the world yet not able to close out the big ones and some of the littler ones. Nicklaus didn’t do it. Tiger didn’t do it. Only Rory.

I use the names of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods intentionally. After Rory won his first second Major in 2012 he made it clear that he was no longer playing for money but for records. He had his sights on Nicklaus’s 18 Major wins and when he picked up two more in 2014 it looked like that was very much on. 

No Majors since. Oh many will remind me he has been world number 1, Player of The Year a few times and won 40 tournaments across the world - 26 of those in the USPGA Tour. BUT… that is not what Rory was playing for.

As the commentators floundered in disbelief at his collapse in this US Open my mind went back to that 2011 Masters when he blew a 4 shot third round lead with a mental collapse on the back 9 in the final day. That evening my alarm bells rang loud. Rory was the most naturally talented golfer on the planet BUT did he have the head. I feared then that there would be days like the 2024 US Open.

The head is so important. In sport confidence pulses from it. Resilience too. When a tee shot goes astray can you refocus? Too often Rory highlights his biggest weakness. He has head melts. It actually costs him almost every week. Some weeks I watch and feel deeply sorry for him travelling home knowing that he blew yet another win. Sometimes before he even begins. Remember the opening hole at Portrush in the 2019 Open?!

So… why? Well I wonder about his leaving school too early. Rory didn’t need to stay at school. He was so unbelievably talented that he knew he’d never need A levels. He would manage financially.

It was a short sighted and flawed error. The mental side of sport is so much a part of it. Watch the footballers Guardiola and Klopp sign and you will see that as well as talented they are very strong mentally.

Golfers spend time in the gym to be as strong and fit as they can be. The mental muscle needs developed too. Most of Rory’s competitors did not leave school early. They went to Universities across America and developed their minds as well as their physiques. Education is not just about books and exams. I surmise that Rory has suffered for not going down that route. 

Now, Rory is only 35. He still has an opportunity to make a dent in that target of 18 Majors. I so really really hope he does. And quickly! Whatever he does do this mental frailty in his make up has cost Rory many many Majors and other tournaments. It's a shame. 

As a pastor I fear for him as he heads home tonight. What goes on in his mind. 10 years on and I blew another one. Maybe blew it worse than even that Masters in 2011 or the Open at St. Andrews in 2022. There’s a lot of scar tissue there and these two putts at the US Open are an open wound. 

I so hope that his daughter Poppy and a marriage he’s now prepared to fight for will give him the consolation he needs. I hope too that he finally gets one at The British Open at Troon. If you can pray for such things, I will be.


COLM TÓIBÍN - BROOKLYN

Brooklyn

Browsing for summer reads, Colm Tóibín's Long Island caught my eye. I'd just finished the TV series Revenge that was set there. With tokens to spend I picked it up. Realising that it was the sequel for Brooklyn I thought I better read it first.

What drew me in further was that emigrating thing in the 1950s. My Uncle Bobby left for Toronto with a clatter of cousins around the same time as Eilis does in Brooklyn. Maybe I'd learn something about that.

I am not sure how much I did, although Tóibín does give us a feel of the early loneliness and nervousness of fitting in.

Brooklyn is the most ordinary of reads. Drama is minimal. It is an extraordinary thing that Tóibín does. He grips you with the ordinary. The very ordinary. There must have been emigrants from Ireland with bigger, more exciting or tragic stories. Eilis Lacey is just this ordinary girl from Enniscorthy, Wexford whose sister thinks she could do better in America.

We are given the networking of a Catholic Church helping their own. Fr Flood is a fine pastoral carer. The Irish networking in America certainly does get some coverage.

In the end we live through the dilemmas of  a young  girl's coming of age. With her beloved sister Rose back in Ireland she does it without people to share her excitement and doubts.

Even the love story with Italian Tony doesn't go overboard on the romantic dreams of romance. Two people find each other at a dance and slowly lean in and eventually have a very ordinary love, no less the stronger for it.

The real story of the book is internal. It is about self doubt. It is about the wrench of making big decisions. Particularly as Eilis seems to have to do all the over thinking or under thinking on her own. It didn't take me back to my Uncle's geographical journey so much as my own growing into adulthood and the decisions needed to be risked. 

It is not long before we fall in love with Eilis. We want the best for her. We feel for her. We want to enter the pages and give advice or maybe we are glad that we don't have to. We become near personally engaged with this friend going through the tunnel from innocence to responsibility.  

Whatever, though Tóibín says there was no intended follow up but in hindsight it seems that there had to be. Tóibín says that it was only when he had a the image of the beginning of Long Island in his mind that came to be. In that image there is more drama than in all of Brooklyn but I loved everything about Brooklyn. Long Island could be more heartbreaking and dramatic but without Brooklyn would that first few pages have had the same shocking impact. 

 


PAUL MCCARTNEY & WINGS - ONE HAND CLAPPING

One Hand Clapping

I have heard it said that your favourite music will always be what you listened to in your mid-teens. Well in the summer of my 15th year I discovered The Beatles and that Christmas Santa left me Wings Over America. It was a life long commitment from then!

I love different periods of Paul McCartney’s post Beatles’ career but 1974-76 improbably my very favourite. I am a Jimmy McCulloch even more than our own Northern Irish Henry McCullough from 1973. Band On The Run through Wings At the Speed Of Sound is my time.

So, needless to say, I am absolutely loving One Hand Clapping finally released, 50 years after the event. Though we have had some of the tracks on deluxe editions of original albums this is the first time to have it all together under one album cover. 

One Hand Clapping is a band playing live in Abbey Road for a live documentary and now five decades later remixed by Giles Martin, George’s son, who has been working on the Beatles’ remixed anniversary records. The sound is strong and sharp as a result.

The Sessions feel warm, laid back and humorous throughout. The band as tight as the proverbial nut. Magnificent performances and little changes to originals, never more so than on Bluebird with its brass ending. The aforementioned Jimmy McCullough brings som tasty guitar too. The medley of C Moon, a little less poppy itself, and Little Woman Love makes the latter seem weightier than the B-side of Mary Had A Little Lamb!

Strewn across are unreleased tracks, at least unreleased at the time and for some time afterwards. I cannot help wonder why their next record Venus and Mars didn’t catch the snippets of Let’s Love, All Of You or Love My Baby instead of a reinvented theme tune form the naff soap opera Crossroads.  

Treats include a wee bit of jazz fun on Baby Face and a raucous Blue Moon Of Kentucky reminds us of the variety of influences always at work in the work of Paul McCartney. Power Cut gets Music Hall humour as this band seem to be having fun.

Even better in my limited edition pack we get a 7” of short McCartney unplugged. Three covers, Blackbird, Country Dreamer and the unreleased Blackpool. Cherries on cake!

Favourites? Too many but great to hear Tomorrow getting little respect. I grew up with the David Cassidy version! The fresh snippets of The Beatles are cool. Maybe best of all Live and Let Die and Nineteen Hundred and Eight Five have real menace and mood. 

I am enjoying everything that surfs on a tidal waves of Jimmy McCulloch that I love  Junior’s farm, Jet, Let Me Roll It, Band On The Run and Hi Hi Hi. Even Wild Life becomes robust beneath McCulloch’s riffing. 

Me being 15 and Paul McCartney’s most creative period blend beautifully right here. His Wings are soaring. Worth waiting for this document of glory days.


FEATHERS (EVERYDAY CHITTER-CHAT)

Feather 3

Everyday chitter-chat

Ad lib sentences that people say

Are feathers tossed up in the wind

Light and wispy, thrown away

It is not sacred text or revelation

Carefully carved into tablets of stone

Nor heavily weighted pontification

From the perfect, judgementally thrown

It is not to damn or hurt

Or burrow worry night and night

They are feathers tossed in the wind

Light and wispy, throw them away.

 

Words can hurt but oftentimes there is no weight behind what we almost hurt ourselves with. Let them go...


TRÚ LIVE IN BELFAST

TRU Live

In a musical world where it is in fashionable to re-boot, refresh or re-invent traditional Irish music Trú are doing it with their voices.

That should not be a surprise when you discover that two of the three members of the band met while singing with Anúna described as “one of the most distinctive and original vocal ensembles in the world”.

Trú throw in menace and tenderness in their percussion, mood in some low whistles and grace notes in economic electric guitar but the force of what they do comes through the harmonies. 

When I say force I mean force. We were thrilled to have had them at the 2024 4 Corners Festival and I found the harmonies holding me tight. It was visceral, like the tenderest thud in my chest. Utterly sublime. I have said it before and I’ll say it again that listening to Trú is like being there when Crosby, Stills and Nash found that blend of voices at the end of the sixties.

I came away from that 4 Corners Festival event waxing lyrical and feeling a yearning for a live record that would somehow reflect the evening. It was with joy that I heard Michael say that it was already in the works.

Live In Belfast is that record. Recorded at Duncairn Arts Centre in September 2023 it has doesn’t lose that earthy live sound as the band takes us all across Ireland to Scotland and as far as France with tales put to song. Like all good trad albums there is respect to the origins of the songs as hear about their stories and locations. 

In the end we are left with the voices, three pallets blended for different effect. Lovely Molly could be a Woodstock outtake from aforementioned Crosby, Stills and Nash, Is Fada liom uiam i has the fragile sorrow of lament, Ay Waukin O is like sacred liturgy in some big and beautiful Cathedral, and Rabbie Burn’s Love Is A Red Red Rose intimate and romantic. Everything hitting spots you didn’t know you needed hit.

Two albums in is early for a live record but not for Trú. Live is where they soar.