McIlroy, Thomas, DeChambeau graceful in defeat at WGC-Mexico Championship
PGA TOUR winners show young fans how to take tough loss
February 24, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy reunites with two fans at WGC -Mexico Championship
MEXICO CITY – “You are going to win this golf tournament.”
So said Justin Thomas’ most ardent fan, an 11-year-old boy named Jeronimo, early in the week at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
“I hope so,” Thomas replied.
Dressed head to toe in golf clothes as if ready to tee it up at a moment’s notice, Jeronimo is a good golfer himself. In the course of walking with his favorite player each day, he showed fellow traveler Mike Thomas, Justin’s father, video of his swing, and Mike, a PGA professional and accomplished teacher, was impressed.
“It’s a really good swing,” he said. “And he said he was practicing every day before he came out here.”
Justin sought the kid out after his rounds, they talked about the game, and everything looked like it would culminate in a victory until it didn’t. Thomas couldn’t find a fairway and shot 73 on Sunday, dropping into a tie for sixth place. Instead of sulking, though, he invited Jeronimo into the locker room and gave the kid the full PGA TOUR experience, plus the shirt off his back. Literally.
Justin Thomas meets young fan at WGC-Mexico Championship
Every week on TOUR, we see how to win. Taking just 98 putts for the week, including 45 one-putts, six more than anyone else, was how Patrick Reed did it at Chapultepec.
“The short game was on-point,” Reed said.
You could say that. If Reed had somehow hit his ball atop the city’s famous, 22-foot-high Angel of Independence statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, he’d have got up and down.
But just as this was a display of how to win, so, too, was it a reminder of how to lose and still act like a human being. The way Thomas did at Chapultepec, even though this looked like his week through 54 holes, and he could have felt the place owed him one after so many close calls.
The Justin-and-Jeronimo connection recalled Rory McIlroy’s loss to Dustin Johnson the year before. Two boys, brothers Eduardo and Hector, had followed him so intently as to copy his outfits, and were so crestfallen he ushered them up the clubhouse steps and into the locker room.
Same classroom, same lesson. Losing is not the end of the world, it’s part of life, there would be other tournaments, and all had not been in vain. McIlroy dispensed pats on the back, kind words and his autographed shoes. The brothers dried their tears. They went away smiling.
McIlroy shot 68 and finished solo fifth this year. He, too, could figure this place owes him one, but he, too, will have to wait. He and Thomas have distinguished themselves, nonetheless.
So has Bryson DeChambeau, whose only mistake was a bogey at the par-3 17th. The three-putt from 63 feet would be the difference, leaving him with a bittersweet runner-up finish. After waiting for the playoff that wasn’t, he made his way to the 18th green to congratulate Reed.
Later, with the cameras off, DeChambeau hung around the kids’ zone, signing and smiling for selfies. The kids wanted balls, gloves and hats, and he gave and gave. Finally, he turned to go, but was stopped by the yelling of a man standing on the catwalk above him. The guy dropped his cap, which DeChambeau caught, signed, and gave to a member of his team to return.
Back in the locker room, McIlroy pushed a giant suitcase and his golf clubs out the front door, thanking the attendants on his way out. His Ryder Cup teammate and playing partner Jon Rahm did the same after shooting a final-round 67 to finish T3 with Erik van Rooyen (70), three back.
The day hadn’t gone well, but the week wasn’t a total loss. Rahm had broken the course record with a third-round 61 that included an ace on 17. McIlroy had reunited with Eduardo and Hector. Thomas had formed a bond with Jeronimo, who now had his shirt. Some kid had Bryson’s hat.
They’d lost well, and that was something, too.