Omens are good for Rory McIlroy
Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts
Published 03/01/2014 | 09:30
The year ahead might yet be the one of a young Ulsterman's dreams. A year ago, snaps of Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki in Sydney heralded the most difficult season of his professional career during which he had to field questions about the death of romance as well as his game.
Now, following a first win in more than a year at the Australian Open last month, McIlroy is back in Australia with his betrothed preparing for an entirely different start to the year.
Wozniacki is building towards the first major of the tennis season, the Australian Open in Melbourne in a fortnight, the same week that McIlroy opens his account for 2014 at the HSBC Champions in Abu Dhabi.
It was there a year ago that he unveiled his new Nike clubs following a £78m switch from Titleist. The missed cut sent out a flare warning of turbulence ahead.
The five victories of 2012, which saw him end the year at No 1 in the rankings, seemed a world away as he disappeared into a vortex of poor form and questionable decision-making.
McIlroy is still only 24. The mistakes he has made are as much to do with the sense of omnipotence bred by high achievement at a young age. He learned last year the oldest lesson in the book, namely that talent alone is no guarantee of success.
He begins 2014 needing to re-establish his credentials as the likely heir to Tiger Woods as the game's dominant player.
To do that he must add a major of his own in 2014. A year into the relationship with Nike and seemingly settled domestically, McIlroy is in a much better place than he was 12 months ago.