The deadpan expression matched the emptiness in the startling blue eyes. The day hadn't gone off well and perhaps that explained the lack of emotion as Scott Pinckney entered the tournament office. Card submitted, he sank into a chair, the eyes shut. Hearing his name being called, Pinckney sat up with a look that made it clear that the intrusion was not welcome. "Not now," he said. "It's about Rory (McIlroy)," came the reply. The name struck a chord. "Sit," he said.
The association is 14-years-old and by talking about, the 22-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, tried to distract the troubled mind. "Our first meeting was during the Doral Junior Publix (1998, Maimi, Florida) as eight-year-olds. We played a practice round, the families bonded and that kicked it off," he said while fiddling with his Day II card.
United by the "burning desire" to turn pro and make a mark, the chance meeting has since led to a steady flow of ideas, the latest being the practice round in Dubai last week. While McIlroy moved to Abu Dhabi for the HSBC event, Pinckney flew here for the Gujarat Kensville Challenge.
The gap in form is yawning, but far from being a deterrent, the bond has strengthened with time. "Rory's there for me and the endeavour is to process the confidence he exudes and handle myself better on the course."
Playing alongside McIlroy for the first time after turning professional in July last, the Irish Open has a special place in the heart. "That's one event he'll play (being Ireland's National Open)," said Pinckney, looking forward to the hours of togetherness at the driving range and dining table this year.
Travelling an integral of their lives, the two stay in touch over phone and e-mail, but Pinckney was at hand during McIlroy's epochal moment at the 2011 US Open. "We had a blast after he won at the Congressional," he said.
The memories are numerous but some have stayed on, like the 1999 edition of the Doral Junior Publix in which McIlroy and Pinckney made a 1-2 finish.
Another is McIlroy's visit to the Pinckney household in Utah as a 12-year-old. "It was summer and we went to the pool for a dip. Unaccustomed to the heat, Rory got blisters all over. That was funny," he said with an impish grin.