It was the greatest moment of Rory McIlroy's life. Stepping up to the microphone after an astonishing week of golf at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, and being presented to the crowd - in the R&A's quaint choice of words - the "champion golfer of the year".
He kept his emotions in check; after all, this is a young man who has tasted few disasters so far in his career and was never going to be overwhelmed by that feeling of "FINALLY!". You know - the same impulse that made Andy Murray blub his way through his victory speech after winning Wimbledon after so many near misses in grand slam events.
But the lack of emotion put paid to McIlroy's moment, since it gave him the wherewithal to pay tribute to the crowd in the most measured, but unfortunate choice of words.
"I'd just like to say that, despite me being a Manchester United fan..."
BOOOOO!!!! The cry rang out around the grandstands that envelop he final green at Hoylake.
Why? Because Hoylake is just a few miles from the city of Liverpool, in the Wirral. McIlroy was clearly going to say, "despite me being a Manchester United fan, the crowds here gave me amazing support."
But he never got that far. This was a major misjudgement of the crowd, who'd been out in the sunshine, drinking, for hours on end. They were listening through an alcoholic haze, over a PA system that was probably echoey and unclear, while probably concentrating more on taking selfies with the champion in the background rather than thinking about what he was actually saying.
And all those fans heard was, "I'm a Manchester United fan." Well, how else would you expect Liverpool fans to respond? Even the ones at the golf?
The boos didn't last too long - but they clearly threw McIlroy, who dashed through the rest of his thank yous with red cheeks, with the embarrassing sight of the stands clearing in the background.
In the cold light of Monday morning, all those who booed will realise exactly what he meant to say and feel rather sheepish. And next time McIlroy is in Liverpool he'll be assured of a rapturous reaction - just as he will all across the world after proving, once again, that he is by far the most exciting golfer on the planet.
Forget what the world rankings say: McIlroy is approaching the very top levels of golfing immortality. He's not in Tiger class yet, but one more Major would put him level with the likes of Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els - and another three would see him equal Nick Faldo and Harry Vardon as Europe's most successful ever golfers.
And for that, everyone in the world will cheer him wherever he goes - even if he is a Manchester United fan.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rory McIlroy
- Royal Liverpool Golf Club
- Manchester United