He mightn’t have been wearing the black horn-rimmed glasses or the dodgy shorts and cape, but Rory McIlroy looked every inch the sporting Superman as he transformed himself from a mild mannered golfing champion into a laugh-a-minute entertainer in a blink of an eye in New York this week.
Only hours after becoming his sport’s number one player, the man from Holywood cashed in on his ever-growing fame as he joined his tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in a new form of courtship at Madison Square Garden.
The thousands of tennis fans in the Big Apple’s sporting mecca recognised him in a heartbeat and instantly took him to their hearts as he got into the very different ball game — a winning eight shot knockabout rally with Caroline’s opponent in an exhibition match, Maria Sharapova.
Rory’s Danish girlfriend said he wasn’t pleased at her for luring her lover into the limelight but he was clearly a master of disguise in the Clark Kent mould as he milked the moment for everything it was worth. This is a young man clearly having the time of his life.
As he soaked up the adulation, he looked a very different man from the McIlroy who wore a baseball hat as he shyly walked into restaurants back home barely a year ago.
But he now knows that if the celebrity cap fits he has to wear it. Especially as his girlfriend is almost as famous as him.
Over the past 48 hours newspapers worldwide have devoted almost as many column inches to the couple’s light-hearted exploits on the tennis court as they did to the more serious story of Rory’s triumph in Florida the day before.
But every golfing commentator in America has also had their say, and although there were the odd begrudgers who reckoned Tiger Woods would soon be back in the driving seat, the writers were in the main raving about Rory.
Doug Ferguson, whose articles are syndicated in dozens of papers, said he believed Rory was on course for a career at the very summit of golf.
“McIlroy has consistency and power, a lethal combination and there doesn’t appear to be any swing changes along the way,” he added.
Golf writer Jim Neveau said: “We’ve got accustomed to seeing the faces change every so often regarding the penthouse of official world golf rankings, but I think McIlroy could be enjoying the view for quite a while. If he doesn’t lose his drive and work ethic, of which I don’t see happening anytime soon, I think he can have his mail forwarded there for quite a while.”
Karen Crouse of the New York Times said: “Since he was grip-high to a driver Rory McIlroy’s signpost has been Tiger Woods. Growing up in Northern Ireland, he studied the details of Woods’s career as if memorising a road map.”
She also marvelled at how approachable McIlroy was, even during competition: “Which perhaps explains why one fan during the third round asked him what shampoo he used.”
Several papers claimed it was changes in his personal and professional life which had helped Rory climb to the top of his particular sport and into the affections of golf-crazy Americans.
A number also commented on Rory’s growing confidence on and off the golf course.
The only hope now is that if he goes to watch one of his boxing heroes like heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in Madison Square Garden any way soon, Rory remembers to stay in the audience