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Rory McIlroy is leaving for love... and sun

By John Laverty

Rory McIlroy has caused a stir by declaring his intention to move to the US. Here, we ask the opinions of several experts as to why the golf ace has changed his mind about living and playing in the States

You said it, Rory. You said it on July 12, two days before the Open Championship. . . “my life will never be the same again.”

And you were right. But not even you could have anticipated the sheer pace of the changes about to be visited upon you.

Some of them, yes. After all, when the 22-year-old Ulsterman was uttering those words at Sandwich he had already struck up a relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki - and was in the process of breaking up with long-term girlfriend Holly Sweeney.

And he also knew that, as a newly-crowned US Open champion, he would be subjected to considerably increased public attention and scrutiny.

Even then, however, he severely underestimated it, preferring to dispense with the extra security offered at the Open — and suffering as a consequence.

Yes, the inclement weather ensured there would be no repeat of the heroics at Congressional, when the Holywood man blew the opposition away in jaw-dropping style.

“I'm looking forward to getting back to America and some nice conditions,” was his then controversial — and now, clearly prescient — post-Open remark.

But McIlroy was also genuinely shocked — and patently affected — by the stratospheric level of ‘Rorymania' cascading down the Sandwich fairways over those four days.

Having initially revelled in it, he was visibly fed up with it come that last, rain-sodden day on the challenging Kent links course.

Shocked, affected, and fed up too, by the level of criticism that followed both the pre-tournament favourite’s performance and his subsequent remarks about wet and windy (‘British') Opens.

And, having helped compatriot and mentor Darren Clarke celebrate his surprise but well-deserved Sandwich triumph, Rory took himself off to southern France — where Miss Wozniacki just happens to possess a desirable residence.

By the way, she also has a tasty pile in Florida . . .

All this, of course, is putting two and two together — but, otherwise, things wouldn't add up at all.

Why else would McIlroy announce on Wednesday that he was seriously considering a return to the United States PGA tour?

It's only nine months ago, remember, that the homesick ‘Wee Mac' handed in his US tour card after just one season.

At the time, he said: “If you're not playing well in the States, it can be a lonely place.

“Holly also has another two years at university and we have two dogs, a nice house — and I love my life back in Ireland. I don't ever want to give that up.”

Fast forward to Wednesday in Ohio: “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 in Florida after the US PGA . . .”

As U-turns go, this was nothing short of astonishing. Or was it?

Michael Jackson may have famously sung “don't blame it on the sunshine,” but that has to be a factor in this proposed move to the Sunshine State.

Let's not forget two of Rory's three big professsional career wins have come in America's sunny climes, the other in Dubai’s scorching desert heat.

And Tina Turner may well have warbled “what's love got to do with it?” but, surely for Rory, the answer is: a lot.

Clearly, the romance that happily fettered him to Northern Ireland has withered, while another one with a perennially suntanned 21-year-old Dane appears to have blossomed.

But the Americans love Rory too — and the PGA would be more than delighted to have him back full time.

Following Tiger Woods' spectacular fall from grace, McIlroy is now the game's most marketable commodity.

The timing may be (yet again) coincidental . . . but it just so happens that the PGA's television contract with the big American networks comes up for renewal next year — just as Rory picks up his 2012 US tour card.

McIlroy, world number four and master of all things Twitter, caused considerable controversy at the Irish Open last week when, rather ironically, he rounded on an American commentator, telling him to “shut up” and labelling him a “failed golfer.”

More memorable, however, was his Tweet after Clarke had become the third Ulsterman to bag a major championship in thirteen months.

“Northern Ireland, golf capital of the world,” he posted, a line that inspired our tourist board to begin selling this wee country as the “home of champions.”

With Rory and good friend Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, about to be spending most of their time in sunny Florida, perhaps ‘occasional’ should now prefix that particular slogan.

Belfast Telegraph


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