Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki ringing in the new year
Engagement will be the making of him, say pals
Friends of golf star Rory McIlroy have said his New Year's Eve engagement to Caroline Wozniacki will transform his game.
After a 2013 dogged by speculation over the Co Down player's relationship with the Danish tennis star, a downturn in form, legal cases and management changes, those close to Rory now believe he has the wind back in his sails.
The couple tweeted their big news a few hours before the bells rang in the New Year in the UK.
But the happy duo were posting pictures of themselves from the other side of the world, Sydney's fireworks celebrations – and the ring itself.
And victory was very much on the mind of the 24-year-old who will play in major tournaments in Abu Dahbi and Dubai later this month.
He wrote on Twitter: 'Happy New Year everyone! I have a feeling it's going to be a great year! My first victory of 2014 – she said yes!'
The former world golf number one may have told family and friends of his intentions to wed on a three-day visit to his native Holywood over Christmas.
Holywood Golf Club professional Stephen Crooks said the engagement did not come as a complete surprise to some of Rory's closest friends.
"It's just great and I'm really pleased for them both," he said. "He's been with Caroline for quite a while now and she's moved into his home in the US a while back so this wasn't totally unexpected."
Stephen has known Rory for the last 14 years and his assistant, Ricky McCormick, is one of Rory's closest friends.
"Now that Rory has got his management team sorted, and this engagement, he's got the foundation to have a great year."
News of the 24-year-old's engagement to the former number one ladies tennis champion caused a Twitter frenzy as fans across the world joined in to wish them well.
The news was welcomed by another recently engaged couple, his close friends Harry Diamond from Holywood and Belfast model Katie Larmour (inset).
Katie tweeted: 'Congrats to our fab friends Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy... only had to keep it quiet for all of an hour! lol.'
Champion golfer Graeme McDowell, who recently married his sweetheart Kristin, simply tweeted his congratulations to the stars.
Yesterday, diners at Holywood Golf Club welcomed the news.
Newtownards couple Andrew and Colette Legge were delighted to learn of the engagement.
"I just happened to notice the news on Teletext late last night," said Mrs Legge, "I think it's wonderful news and I'm sure that they will be very, very happy."
Her husband added: "Well, we have been married 56 years and I hope that they are as happy as we have been."
The couple's American daughter-in-law, Muki Kulhan, said her Illinois father is a major Rory fan.
He said: "My dad will be thrilled that I've got pictures of me with all Rory's cups and that I actually stepped on the green where he started from."
So, what about the bling? Three women give their opinions on the stunning sparkler Caroline's now wearing
'It's beautiful stone... so chic'
Cathy Martin, director of Belfast FashionWeek
I absolutely love Caroline's ring. It's a beautiful stone in a very chic, traditional setting – I'm guessing it's probably at least five or six carats just by looking at it – and its surrounded by smaller diamonds.
It looks so sparkly on her slender Danish fingers, and her simple French manicure sets it off very elegantly.
She and Rory have unfortunately had to live out much of their relationship in the public eye – with much speculation in the last few months that they had split up.
Their engagement, and the subsequent announcement on Twitter, is very much in the spirit of the global sports couple – fresh, youthful and exciting.
It's classy and says 'you're the one'
Katrina Doran, fashion stylist and editor of online fashion and beauty magazine Sugahfix.com
What an absolutely stunning ring!
The size is very 'of the moment' but I love the fact he didn't get all fussy with extra diamonds or other coloured stones to add extra embellishment.
This is a very classy choice with one huge cushion cut diamond that says 'you're the one' in its own sparkly way.
Like most couples I'd guess Caroline did a bit of subtle suggesting at the style of ring she liked – us gals are experts at this – but I think this is Rory's handiwork and he chose it himself.
Of course, what we're all thinking is what is her dress going to be like?
As Caroline wears white for her day job – I wonder will she go for colour for their big day? We will find out soon.
Romantic pick with stunning detail
Gemma Murphy is marketing manager of Jack Murphy Jewellers, Newry
It's a fantastic ring . I think that Rory and Caroline have made a very wise investment for the future. It's a cushion cut diamond – a square or rectangular shape with rounded corners that resembles a pillow.
The cushion cut is a very romantic shape. This cut usually comprises of 58 facets and could be around five carats.
Another stunning feature of Caroline and Rory's ring is the halo of small round brilliant diamonds surrounding the cushion with diamond set shoulders on a fine elegant band.
This really complements the centre diamond. I think the ring would be beautiful with a 'twin' diamond wedding band.
This style has proved very popular with our customers over Christmas and the New Year, so Rory is very much on trend.
Very busy schedules mean 2014 wedding is unlikely
Rory McIlroy may have started the New Year by becoming engaged to his tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki – but it is unlikely that the couple will make it up the aisle before the end of 2014.
The huge diamond ring was only on Wozniacki's left hand moments before speculation began to emerge about when she would become Mrs McIlroy.
However, a source close to the couple last night said that McIlroy "has a very busy schedule for springtime" and that he was due back on the course in Abu Dhabi in mid-January, making a 2014 wedding seem unlikely.
His new fiancée is also expected to return to the tennis court from a shoulder injury in time to participate in the Australian Open in the next two weeks.
It was reported yesterday that Wozniacki's LA-based agent has "insisted" that the former world number one has no plans to retire.
And the pair – both in the top echelons of their sport – have a busy schedule of tournaments throughout the year, from this summer's Wimbledon for Wozniacki, to a likely appearance by McIlroy in the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, Scotland, in September.
The sporting couple announced their engagement on their Twitter accounts on Tuesday night, shortly after Rory went down on bended knee after the New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney, Australia.
Bookmaker Paddy Power said Wozniacki's native Denmark is the favourite location for the wedding ceremony, with odds of 5/6, while Ireland stands at 2/1.
The couple, known to their fans as 'Wozilroy', began dating two years ago, shortly after Rory's high-profile break-up with his childhood sweetheart Holly Sweeney.
It was reported that his former girlfriend was hurt at how quickly Rory had moved on and started dating Caroline.
A serious sports fan, Rory is said to have been a fan of Caroline for some time and was known to also have found her very attractive, before he met her at one of her tournaments.
The romance has not been without its ups and downs, and has been played out in public on Twitter.
There were rumours – later scotched by Rory himself – that the pair had fallen out after he was reported to have been angry with Caroline for tweeting a less than flattering picture of him asleep.