Fairway ropes can’t tune out cruel fanfare for forlorn McIlroy
Crooning fan adds to no wedding woes as Rory tries to get his game face on at Wentworth
Rory McIlroy chats to former footballers Andriy Shevchenko and Gianfranco Zola (right) on the putting green during the Pro-Am ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth yesterday. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy sought to find solace inside the fairway ropes, in the company of three of his own sporting heroes. Red Devils all. But the Ulsterman had only taken a few steps down the first fairway here on the West Course at Wentworth in yesterday’s pro-am when he was reminded of the goldfish bowl in which he lives, as strains of Ave Maria, a common wedding song, wafted in his direction. He couldn’t escape.
The male soloist, a golf fan, positioned outside the ropes, thought it funny as he crooned – badly but distinctly – lines from the song.
McIlroy didn’t laugh. Peter Schmeichel and Phil Neville moved on to find their golf balls. Teddy Sheringham conveniently hung back to sign an autograph. Central character The break-up with Caroline Wozniacki was the only show in town on the eve of the European Tour’s flagship event. And McIlroy was again the central character in a storyline that seemingly has as much, or more, going on off the course as on it these days. His is a reality show of the ages.
What’s for sure is McIlroy’s golf has been affected by what’s happened in his life away from the fairways, results – the only criteria used in locker room – providing proof of his fall. The former number one has slipped to 10th in the world rankings and, apart from victory in the Australian Open at the tail-end of last year, he has failed to win either in America or on the European Tour for over 18 months.
McIlroy’s last win on the US Tour came in the BMW Championship – part of the season-ending FedEx Cup series - in September 2012, while his last win on the European Tour came when he won the DP World Tour Championship to wrap up the Race to Dubai in November 2012. It was a season where he topped the money list on both main tours and had captured his second career Major, the US PGA, to add to his US Open in 2011.
When McIlroy signed a mega multi-year sponsorship deal with Nike – worth over $200 million – it established him as one of the world’s highest paid and most marketable athletes. Souring of relations But that deal was central to a souring of relations with management company Horizon Sports, the subject of legal proceedings in the courts.
And his relationship with Danish tennis player Wozniacki kept the couple in the showbiz spotlight and had its ups and downs but seemed to have settled into a happy equilibrium when McIlroy proposed in Sydney on New Year’s Eve and she accepted.
At the US Masters in Augusta last month, Wozniacki – her hair dyed a shade of pink to blend in with the azaleas – caddied for McIlroy in the pre-tournament par-three contest and was a highly visible member of the entourage walking outside the ropes for the four days of competition.
Indeed, the couple frequently took to the social media site Twitter to share their seemingly blossoming relationship. As recently as last week, Wozniacki tweeted about enjoying the musical The Bodyguard in her fiancé’s company, while McIlroy posted a photo from Nobu – the acclaimed restaurant owned by celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa – in Monte Carlo where the couple had enjoyed dinner.
Over the weekend, invitations to their wedding – set for New York in November – were sent out to guests. And, according to McIlroy, that act, and its reality, was what led him to call a halt in what he yesterday claimed was a “mutual” decision.
“I just want to get my head into golf this week and concentrate on the tournament and try and do well,” he said. Easier said than done, you suspect.