McIlroy’s breaking news grabs all the headlines at Wentworth
But Ulster man still one of the favourites despite troubles and poor course record
Rory McIlroy speaking with his father Gerry during the Pro-Am ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth . Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Love hurts. Loss pains. Break-ups happen. And if the first thought on the minds of 149 of the 150 players in the field here for the BMW PGA Championship was about contesting for a prized title, in what is a €4.75 million tournament, the second – it would seem – was for Rory McIlroy.
If McIlroy’s split from his intended ensured there was only one topic of conversation doing the rounds in the locker room or on the range and many pondered the whys of the timing of an announcement yesterday that put the usual pre-tournament formalities to one side.
Whatever about the methodology used, a press statement, there was a sense that McIlroy would have preferred to be somewhere else and the only reason he was in Wentworth was, ironically enough, he had made a “commitment to be here” for the European Tour’s tour’s flagship tournament. ‘My duty’ As McIlroy put it, “I thought it was my duty to come back and play in this event. Once I gave my word that I would (play), I wasn’t going to go back on it . . . everyone has been through break-ups and it’s obviously very, very difficult. But I’m here to try and concentrate on (golf) this week.”
In the absence of a counsellor in the players’ lounge, McIlroy could do worse that search out Sergio Garcia who yesterday suggested the first thing he would do when he saw the Ulsterman would be to “put my arm around his shoulder and ask if he wants to talk about it.”
Garcia has been through such matters before himself. “Yes, a couple of times. I broke it off when I split up with Martina (Hingis) but Morgan (Greg Norman’s daughter) was the one who left me and, of course, how you react is very different. When you are the one who leaves someone, you can usually get over it quicker.
“But either way it is always a hard thing to do, when you have shared so much together,” said the Spaniard.
Garcia continued: “You try to get away from it by throwing yourself into golf more than ever. But it doesn’t always work out, it is not easy to concentrate when something like that is still on your mind.
“Every case is different. But, for me, the hurt of the break-up (with Norman) was one of the reasons I felt I had to stop playing the game for a while.
“Time is a great healer but how long it takes is going to be different every time. It’s not something you can predict. I know how I felt, but I can’t put those same feelings on someone else because you don’t know the full background.”
In any event, McIlroy’s record here wouldn’t inspire confidence: he finished fifth here in 2009, 48th in 2010, 24th in 2011 and has missed the cut the past two years.
The possible impact of the ending of the “Wozzilroys” on the player was not one Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley was inclined to venture into.
“It’s a personal matter, it’s not my business. I’m Ryder Cup captain, I’m not God. I’m not going to tell people how to run their life, or how to be in a relationship or what they should do,” said McGinley.
As far as Pádraig Harrington was concerned, and as surprised as he was to hear the news, McIlroy could – he felt – focus on his golf. ‘A great stresser’ “You see guys playing great through many traumas in their personal life but obviously you (also) see many guys not play golf so well. So, it’s a great stresser. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t go and perform. Maybe being on a golf course is getting away from everything, a release. Who knows? It’s a completely individual thing.”
Indeed, Harrington felt McIlroy had, in a sense, shown bravery in making such a decision.
“He obviously cares a lot for Caroline but realises it’s not the right thing for him to do. That’s a horrible place to be. Nobody wants to hurt anybody else and that is very much the fact.
“Clearly he cares a lot for her but doesn’t want to make something that would only be worse down the road.
“He’s taken a very brave action, assuming it’s the right action, it’s an incredibly brave action he’s taken.”
One thing Harrington and McIlroy have in common is a frustration with how to play the West Course. “Yes. I’m only here purely because it’s the flagship event of the European Tour. It doesn’t suit my schedule and I find the golf course very difficult. There’s a lot of reasons not to be here and there’s one big reason to be here,” admitted Harrington.
Too often, it has seemed, McIlroy has become frustrated by the demands of the West Course where the driver – invariably his club of choice off the tee – is taken out of his hand.
“I’m just going to accept that you’ve got to plot your way around the golf course and not be overly aggressive ,” said the Ulster man who, in spite of everything remains one of the favoured contenders for the title.