Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Drama as Rory McIlroy gets driven off course yet again

McIlroy tries to deal with split as best as he can

Moving on: Rory McIlroy in thoughtful mode at yesterday's Wentworth Pro-Am event
Happier times: Rory and Caroline

The news burst like an artillery shell over Wentworth. Rory McIlroy's friends and colleagues on Tour were stunned and saddened to learn of his breakup with fiancée Caroline Wozniacki.

Yet millions of casual sports fans and celebrity junkies may be tempted to regard this story as just another episode in McIlroy's volatile soap opera life.

At the tender age of 25, McIlroy has endured more drama than the entire cast of Eastenders.

On the course or off it, the Holywood native never, ever seems to follow the path of least resistance.

Only McIlroy, one suspects, could have rebounded from that harrowing Sunday afternoon implosion at Augusta to complete a sensational, record-shattering first Major Championship victory 70 days later at the 2011 US Open at Congressional.

He twice reached the top of the world in 2012 by romping to another mould-breaking eight strokes Major Championship success at the PGA Championship.

After signing a life-changing $20million per annum deal with Nike that December, McIlroy then endured eight fruitless and frustrating months as he struggled to get to grips with his new clubs.

There were murmurings of upheaval in the background as McIlroy walked off the golf course less than half way through his second round on Black Friday at The Honda Classic in March 2013.

Then he broke up with his Dublin management company Horizon last April, a month after signing an extension to his contract.

Ironically, exactly 12 months ago McIlroy's pre-tournament press conference at the BMW PGA Championship was dominated by that break-up, which continues to cast a pall as both sides remain locked on course for collision in Dublin's Commercial Court.

Even echoes of his previous six-year relationship with childhood sweetheart Holly Sweeney would resonate in the media long after they parted in July 2011 and McIlroy and Danish tennis star Wozniacki became the biggest celebrity couple in sport.

And as bookmakers last night frivolously laid odds on the Ulsterman's next girlfriend, some might almost be tempted perhaps to forget the real-life pain and anguish which underpins this and many other adventures or misadventures in which he has become embroiled.

Anyone who witnessed at first hand McIlroy's emotional press conference at Wentworth yesterday knows differently.

Tears appeared to well in his eyes as he was reminded of the joyful announcement of his engagement to Wozniacki amid the fireworks of New Year's Eve in Sydney just five months ago.

"Look, I'm no different than anyone else," said McIlroy when asked how tough the decision had been.

"Everyone has been through break-ups and it's obviously very, very difficult."

Breaking-up is always hard to do but McIlroy deserves credit for the courageous way in which he faced the world's media, while his decision to honour his commitment to play in this week's tournament lends him an opportunity to find refuge in his golf.

For sure, tales circulated among those close to the couple of the occasional flaming row and I understand they actually did part, albeit briefly, last October. Yet the course of true love rarely runs smooth, especially between young, hot-blooded twenty-somethings.

Most surprising and perplexing was the sudden timing of yesterday morning's announcement of the split, made in a statement issued by McIlroy's Dublin communications consultant Terry Prone.

It came right out of the blue, literally days after they'd written and sent out the invitations for next November's wedding.

There had been no indication of discord in recent days. Quite the opposite, in fact, as both tweeted about idyllic evenings together.

Though he said the decision had been "mutual and amicable," he added: "The problem is mine."

McIlroy has gone places where others feared to tread, for example in his admission to an English tabloid several years ago that he "feels more British than Irish", later expressing genuine regret for the hurt that caused in many quarters.

So any surprise caused by the suddenness of the announcement is tempered by the thought that it's typical of McIlroy, especially now as he takes firm control of his destiny.

One suspects Rory McIlroy, the golfer, will heal quickly and emerge even stronger from this latest drama in an extraordinary life.

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