So when the question of “mental toughness” came up during McIlroy’s Thursday press conference ahead of Friday’s start to the second of four FedEx Cup playoff games, Tom Brady was the world No. 1’s go-to guy.
“Of course. You’ve got to admire what Tom has done over his career,” McIlroy said in response to a query about whether he waved the pompoms for Tom Terrific and his psychological robustness. “And he still keeps going. Is he 37? Something like that. He still keeps going.
“Each and every year he's getting his team to the playoffs and winning big games in clutch moments. That's what he thrives on. That's what he trains for. That's what he practices for,” McIlroy added, stretching the analogy about as far as he could. “It's sort of the same for us. We thrive on those moments like we had at the PGA [Championship], where there's a few guys in contention, and you need to pull out the shots at the right time. That's the fun part of it. And, yeah, you do need mental toughness and you do need to be mentally strong ... [to pull] out the right shots when it matters.”
McIlroy may have said all the right things to the hometown media about the three-time Super Bowl champion who plies his trade just down the road in Foxboro, but the fervent Manchester United soccer fan is really a booster of Brady’s primary rival, Peyton Manning.
"One of the reasons why I want to go to Denver is the Broncos play the Colts on Sunday night," McIlroy, after coming in T22 at The Barclays, said Sunday about his plans to play in next week’s third FEC event, the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills CC. “I want to go to that first game of the season."
With the Ryder Cup in the offing and a hectic run of tournaments at the so-called end of the PGA Tour season, which includes four straight weeks of playoffs, golfers often skip one of the matches. Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose were two of the four who cited personal and other reasons for skipping the TPC Boston competition.
For McIlroy, the NFL schedule dictated his own calendar, with the final round of the BMW slated to end a few hours before Manning’s Broncos take on his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, in the Sunday night season-opener for the two NFL squads. The two-time major champion could even win his contest and still be in his seat in time for kickoff at Mile High Stadium.
"I was thinking about [taking the week off], but you know what?" said McIlroy, who had won three straight events before finishing well off the pace of winner Hunter Mahan at Ridgewood CC. "I feel fine, I feel fresh. I have no problem playing a lot of golf. I'll see where I stand next week, but I'm 90 percent sure to be in Denver for sure.”