Grayson Murray’s sad passing casts a pall over the PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy the headline act at the Canadian Open at Hamilton where Shane Lowry and Seamus Power also compete

There will undoubtedly be an air of sadness around this week’s RBC Canadian Open with perhaps greater perspective from one and all of how golf is golf, sport is sport, and that other things are far more important in light of Grayson Murray’s passing.

Rory McIlroy, the world number three, is the headline act in the tournament at Hamilton, one of the best attended on the PGA Tour, where Shane Lowry and Séamus Power – each of them heading into a busy schedule that will follow Canada with the Memorial, the US Open and the Travelers, two signature events and one of them a Major – are also back in action.

However, the impact of Murray’s death, by suicide, last weekend has sent shock waves around the golfing world. The Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth, Texas, continued – ultimately won by Davis Riley – only after Murray’s family insisted the that tournament not be cancelled, and the nature of the professional circuit is such that one week quickly moves into another with little time for pause or reflection.

The true perspective following the shock news came from other players. One of them was Peter Malnati, who had played with Murray the first two days at Colonial.

READ MORE

“We get so worked up out there . . . about a bad break here, a good break there . . . we’re so competitive out here. We all want to beat each other. And then something like this happens. You realise we’re all just humans. It’s just a really hard day.

“You look at Grayson and you see someone who was visibly and outwardly struggling in the past, and he’s been open about it. And then you see him get his life back to a place where it’s feeling good about things . . . it’s so sad,” said Malnati.

Another contribution came from world number one, Scottie Scheffler.

“I got to know him fairly well over the last few months, shared a couple meals with him, played a couple of practice rounds. I was with him for a few hours, he was at our rental house last week. It’s a tough day for all of us out here on tour and we’re thinking about his family and we’re praying hard for them,” said Scheffler.

Perhaps the most elegant words on Murray’s tragic passing came from Harry Higgs, a former tour player using the Korn Ferry Tour as his pathway back to the main circuit. Higgs won in back-to-back weeks on the secondary circuit (all but assuring a full card for next season) but all of his thoughts were with Murray and his family as he offered his perspective:

“This golf stuff and the result, it’s lovely, sure, but it’s just not, it’s not that meaningful . . . the world is difficult and only getting more difficult. Everybody here could be a difference, the difference. Brighten up somebody’s day, it could mean the world,” said Higgs.

A two-time winner on the PGA Tour, most recently at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, Murray (30) had openly battled alcohol addiction and bouts of depression for years. That win, however, seemed to provide a moment of redemption.

Revealing he had been sober for eight months, Murray spoke of the anxiety and depression that contributed to his drinking: “I struggle with comparing myself to others, self-esteem. I think they’re common issues that we all endure. I got tired of trying to fight it alone, and I asked for help one day, and that’s when my life changed.”

Just four months later, Murray – who withdrew from the Charles Schwab on Friday, citing illness – ended his own life.

Speaking of the PGA Tour’s attempts to help players, chief executive Jay Monahan claimed: “Over the last several years, I spent a lot of time with him [Grayson] because I wanted to understand what we could do in his estimation, in his opinion, to help everybody else out here. We’ve made a number of advancements along those lines and, you know, it’s become a real point of focus and emphasis. We’re proud of the programmes we have in place to support our players, to support everybody out here.”

Those support structures will be badly needed in the weeks and months ahead, you feel.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this story, please contact The Samaritans at 116 123 or email at jo@samaritans.ie

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times