VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy probably should be out having a few beers with his mates this weekend rather than trying to win the €4.75 million ($6.5 million) BMW PGA Championship in the leafy surroundings of the Wentworth Club.
That’s what many 25-year-olds would do after breaking off an engagement. Problem is, McIlroy is no ordinary 25-year-old.
The two-time major winner will play in Europe’s flagship event despite being in the media spotlight after splitting up with former World No. 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. McIlroy ended the relationship because he said Wednesday that he was not ready for marriage.
“There is no right way to end a relationship that has been so important to two people,” McIlroy said in a statement. “The problem is mine. The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize that I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails.
“I wish Caroline all the happiness she deserves and thank her for the great times we’ve had. I will not be saying anything more about our relationship in any setting.”
Needless to say, the media wanted only to talk about one issue when McIlroy turned up for his pre-tournament news conference. Looking tired and drawn, McIlroy briefly expanded on the split.
“Obviously (it’s) quite a difficult time for Caroline and myself, and I think the statement really said it all this morning,” he said. “It was mutual and amicable, and we both thought it was the best for both of us. Time to move on, and I think I’ve said all that I need to say.
“I just want to get my head into golf this week and concentrate on the tournament and try and do well. (I’ve) been playing well. The form’s been good. Just want to dive straight into it and keep myself somewhat busy and just try and have a good week on the course.
“I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be very difficult. But you know, at least when I get inside the ropes, just try and concentrate on the shot at hand.”
McIlroy’s record over the West Course at Wentworth isn’t great. He finished fifth here in 2009, 48th in 2010, 24th in 2011 and has missed the cut in the past two years.
“I’ve struggled on the course since they made the changes,” he conceded. “I’m trying to go into this week with the mindset of not getting frustrated that I might only get to hit driver two or three times a round and feel like my advantage is taken away from me.
“I’m going to try to just accept that you’ve got to plot your way ’round this golf course and not be overly aggressive.”
That’s going to be easier said than done with what’s just happened in his personal life. Yet he’s still the 11-1 tournament favorite with British bookmakers William Hill.
Perhaps being inside the ropes will spur him on. Or maybe he’ll just go through the motions for two days in the hope that he can get to those beers on Friday and Saturday nights, as many guys his age in his situation would be planning to do.