Poetry Often Prefers Losers

Rory McIlroy

Sport Saturday

We love narratives in sports, and sometimes that means we are unfair to the winners.  I know that, in the Master’s last weekend, three 20-something unknowns from Commonwealth nations battled down to the wire and that the champion shot birdies on the final four holes (!) to come from behind to win the green jacket.  But I can’t tell you his name.

Update: I just googled it.  The winner was Charl Schwartzel.

His was not the story that glued me to the television, however.  Instead I was gripped by Tiger’s spectacular charge on the front nine before he started missing putts he would have coolly drained a few years ago,.  And I couldn’t take my eyes off the train wreck performance by the man some think will be the next Tiger.  20-year-old Roy McIlroy of Northern Island entered Sunday with a four stroke lead, only to drop ten strokes (!!), the worst round ever by a Sunday leader. These disappointments were far more memorable than Schwartzel’s storybook finish.

I’m sorry, Charl, but it will always be this way.  Shakespeare understood this.  He knew that we prefer Antony, who dramatically throws away an empire, to Octavius, who cold-bloodedly wins one.  After the calculating Henry V carries the day at the Battle of Agincourt, there’s no more to be said about him, but the Bard resurrects from the dead Henry’s old drinking buddy, writing another play about Falstaff  (The Merry Wives of Windsor).  Imagine plays carrying the titles of Fortinbras, Macduff and Albany, the men who enter to clean up the greens after Hamlet, Macbeth and Lear have sprayed their balls all over the course. Actually I’m pretty sure you can’t imagine it.

McIlroy, bidding to become the youngest golfer to win the Master’s since, yes, Tiger, found himself cast in the role of Icarus.  Flying close to the bright sun of fame, the wax in his wings melted and he plummeted to earth in a debacle that scorched the eyes to watch.  As Marlowe puts it in Doctor Faustus, “His waxen wings did mount above his reach,/And, melting, heavens conspir’d his overthrow.”

And what can we say about Tiger?  For  90 minutes or so, his fearful symmetry burned bright as he prepared to add to his legend.  But he missed a six-foot eagle putt that could have put him ahead for good and suddenly he was merely Kipling’s lame tiger from The Jungle Book. If you’ve read the second volume, you know that Mowgli lures Shere Khan into a cul de sac and then stampedes in a herd of water buffaloes to kill him.  Well, golfing’s Tiger was trampled by a trio of young men from South Africa and Australia.

All in all, it was a memorable Master’s.  And congratulations to what’s-his-name for winning it.

This entry was posted in Blake (William), Kipling (Rudyard), Marlowe (Christopher), Shakespeare (William). Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete