McIlroy lost, yes. But, he also won.

March 03, 2014 | Drew Forrester

The most celebrated post-game interview of 2014 still belongs to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

But, there’s a new leader in the clubhouse for “post-game interview with the most integrity” thus far in 2014 and the man on top is Rory McIlroy.

You might think at age 24 that McIlroy shouldn’t be this wise beyond his years, yet there he was yesterday, answering the question of “what happened?” when meeting up with NBC golf reporter Roger Maltbie in the aftermath of a playoff loss at The Honda Classic.

What DID happen, by the way, was McIlroy completely throwing away the tournament by making a double-bogey at #16 and a bogey at #17 to allow three other contenders back into the tournament.  Oddly enough, he had a chance to win at #18 when he hit the shot of the tournament from 250 yards out but failed to make his 12-foot eagle putt and a playoff ensued.

Following a Russell Henley birdie at the first playoff hole – giving him his 2nd TOUR victory – McIlroy was met by Maltbie, who wasted no time at all getting down to business.

“Tough back nine out there today.  What happened?” asked Maltbie.

Just like that, McIlroy was on the spot.

Could you imagine asking Tiger Woods a question that directly…moments after a final hour collapse like the one authored by McIlroy?

With Tiger, you’d have to say something like this — “Tiger, you played so well yesterday with that 65…and then today, you got the bad break with the ball in the divot at #4 and then that putt just missed for birdie at #7 and then it all seemed to unravel from there.”

McIlroy got this:  “What happened today?”

And he answered the question like the champion that he is, explaining in almost boring detail how he misplayed the shot at #16 that led to the double bogey.

He also said something else very interesting —  “Even if I would have made the putt at 18 and won the tournament, it would have almost felt undeserved.”

McIlroy stood there for two minutes or so and handled the questioning with integrity and diplomacy.

I watched and wondered to myself, “I wonder what Tiger would have done in that situation?”

I know the answer.

We would have heard Dan Hicks say, “Roger Maltbie tried to catch up with Tiger just a few seconds ago, but Tiger politely declined an interview request.”

Tiger Woods conduct a “losers interview”?

Most likely not.

McIlroy won’t ever approach Woods for career wins or major championships — no one currently on TOUR will, either, for that matter — but what you saw yesterday was a touch of class from him that Woods and many others on the professional golf circuit wouldn’t be able to duplicate.