Is Rory McIlroy ready to up sticks for America?
The British weather’s got a lot to answer for. Rory McIlroy revealed here yesterday he is set to buy a house in America and is “leaning towards” resuming membership of the PGA Tour.
When asked why the change of heart, McIlroy blamed the rain and wind at the Open.
It was a funny line but he acknowledged it was much more complex than that. He cited his belief that: “I play my best golf over here.” He also confessed that the recent break-up with his childhood sweetheart, Holly Sweeney, had “a little bit, definitely” to do with it.
Sources within Team Rory also suggested he was struggling with all the attention in his homeland and being “Northern Ireland’s superstar”. Of course the 22-year-old will still appear on his home continent, but the move is a blow for Europe.
McIlroy tore up his US card after just 12 months last year, speaking of his dislike of the end-of-season FedEx Series, of missing his home and some of his favourite events in Europe.
The PGA Tour have made strenuous efforts to persuade him into a U-turn and were thrilled when McIlroy approached them yesterday to ask about a possible return.
In truth, it was akin to David Beckham asking Preston if they would like him back. With the PGA Tour’s TV contract up next year this was just the news their commissioner wanted to hear. There could be tens of millions resting on this, as their reaction confirmed.
“We would be ecstatic if it happens. Rory is a huge asset and an immense talent,” said Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s chief of operations. (PAR)
Said McIlroy: “I spoke to them today and I’m leaning towards taking my card up again, definitely. I feel as if I play my best golf over here.
“I’m very comfortable in this country. I’m going to look at a few houses down in Florida after the USPGA [next week]. I’m definitely looking towards coming back and playing a full schedule over here.”
What qualifies as a full schedule? Well, members are required to play a minimum of 15 events and must compete in the FedEx Cup. He would also be obliged to play in the Players, AKA “the fifth major”, a tournament he does not like. All these cons, he says, come under the title of “some things I have to accept”.
McIlroy will stay with his friend and countryman Graeme McDowell in Lake Nona, Orlando in two weeks’ time while he hunts for new property.
Speculation will inevitably fall on his burgeoning relationship with Caroline Wozniacki, the Danish tennis player.
He alluded to their relationship, and how difficult it is to maintain a private life.
The revelation overshadowed the build-up to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Akron and most notably the reappareance of Tiger Woods after a 12-week absence with injuries.
Woods, now ranked 28th in the world, will partner Open champion Darren Clarke in the first two rounds and will command the brunt of the focus. McIlroy said how enthralled he was by how Woods fares.
“It’s very compelling,” said the US Open champion. “Everyone wants to know how he’s going to do, how he’s going to play, how is his knee.”
The 35-year-old played his first 18 holes in front of a crowd since The Masters in April and looked sharp in practice.
There was plenty of interest in his caddie, Bryon Bell, just as there will be when the $8.5m spectacular starts proper. Bell is a novice bagman and is better known as Tiger’s childhood friend, named by at least three of Woods’s mistresses as being “the travel agent” in their trysts.