Splitting from his girlfriend was the one of the hardest decisions he has ever had to make, golfer Rory McIlroy has claimed.
But the 21-year-old, who broke off his six year romance with Holly Sweeney (20) before Christmas, has insisted the couple are still good friends.
Speaking publicly about his heartache for the first time, from Abu Dhabi, where he is competing in the HSBC Championship, the Holywood-born golf hero said: “Me and Holly talk every day. We still get on great. I think we both understand what we want and that’s basically what it is.”
Believing that Holly, a sports technology student at the University of Ulster, was the love of his life, Rory’s friends and family expressed shock at the break up.
In the past two years Rory has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of his game.
His maiden victory came in the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic and his lucky streak continued throughout 2010 when he was crowned the youngest player ever to win a PGA Tour title, when claiming the Quail Hollow Championship in April.
Conceding that life as a professional golfer sometimes required him to be selfish, he added: “I didn’t have a great couple of weeks before Christmas but you got to do what’s right for yourself. At this time of my life, I want to put this time into my golf.”
Meanwhile, Rory’s agent Chubby Chandler concluded: “I think Rory just found the life he was leading made it very difficult to maintain a relationship.”