On July 20, the 25-year-old Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy won the Open Championship, completing the first three legs of golf’s prestigious “grand slam.”
McIlroy led the tournament wire-to-wire, and while bending to a lead of only three strokes on championship Sunday, he didn’t break and finished on top.
McIlroy seemingly did all the right things both on and off the course, which has made him golf’s most popular player not named Tiger. Only on Sunday, he had a minor slip-up…and those that turned off the TV after he had successfully secured the championship never saw it.
During the acceptance speech, ready to take the Claret Jug about after thanking the club, his competitors, family, and friends, he was nearly home when it happened…in attempting to thank the crowd for its support, he uttered the phrase, “…even though I’m a Man United fan sittin’ here…”
He barely finished uttering those words before a chorus of boos reigned down upon him. Why? Because McIlroy was in Liverpool, England, home of the soccer club of the same name and bitter rivals with Manchester United. McIlroy tried to explain the reasoning, with his point being that even Liverpool fans had cheered and supported him, as a ManU fan. But the damage-albeit brief-had already been done.
So what can be learned from McIlroy’s misstep?
- Don’t Forget Your Setting: When making your point, don’t bring up something that has the chance of riling up your target audience. If you’re in Boston, don’t mention the Yankees. If you’re in Liverpool, don’t mention Manchester United.
- Don’t Get Risky: McIlroy was home free, but by trying to endear himself to the crowd, he did the exact opposite and isolated himself from them.
- No “Take-Backs:” For all the goodwill built during the tournament, there will still be some who will leave that day saying “Can you believe he mentioned ManU?” Tread carefully because your words can have a lasting impact, especially if it’s near the last thing you say.
Misstep aside, we still got to see an athlete on rise, who along with Arnie, Jack, and Tiger, is becoming known for one name: Rory.