Bring back the days when celebrities kept their private lives, well, just that -- private, writes Eilis O'Hanlon
Come back, Tiger Woods, all is forgiven. At least the former No 1 golfer tried to keep his private life to himself. His reasons for doing so may have been less than wholesome -- not least the fear that Swedish wife Erin might find out about the string of identikit babes he'd been sleeping with throughout their marriage, and use the knowledge to take him to the cleaners (in the end she got $100m, and Tiger can consider himself lucky it wasn't more) -- but he did his best to be discreet. That's all a man can do.
But for that late night encounter with a fire hydrant, and the eternal desire of blondes to make a buck by hawking the sordid details of their sex lives to the highest bidder, we might still know nothing about what Tiger got up to outside business hours. He was, to the end, a man who never said three words where none would do.
The new No 1 golfer, by contrast, seems determined to make his love life a staple of bus stop conversation, to be read about over the corn flakes at breakfast, and turned into suitable material for those sickening heartwarming funny bits at the end of the news. It's even part of Rory McIlroy's charm that he's so open and approachable. That's why everyone loves him and why he's taking America by storm. These poor people had to put up with Tiger's taciturn intensity for years. Woods was no more likely to share personal information with the world than he was to provide a homicidal maniac with extra bullets for his gun.
McIlroy opens the door to his life and invites the world and his wife to rummage around and help themselves. He probably knows they'll end up using what they find there against him one day, but he still does it, because that's his style, he doesn't know any other way to be.
For now, it's working. When it stops working, he'll deal with the consequences then. It's not his nature to brood on future worries.
Of course, it's a big leap from being genial and open to having more than two million people download videos of you on YouTube practically making out with your girlfriend in public, but now Rory's made that jump too. His current main squeeze, Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, was playing an exhibition match in New York last week against Maria Sharapova. Sharapova danced with some chap from the crowd. Caroline instantly turned round and inquired: "Are there any hot guys who wanna dance with me?" -- this being the way all Danes talk when they learn their English in showbizzy circles.
Thousands of fans in Madison Square Gardens instantly pointed towards Rory, who was sitting in the crowd, waving his willingness to take part. A little bit of coaxing later, and he was down on the court with his arms around Caroline, for all the world the blushing picture of young love.
The golfer was in a good mood, having just come hot foot from winning the Honda Classic, a victory which secured him that coveted No 1 spot, and he played along like a trooper. The crowd loved it. The press loved it. For someone from Northern Ireland, being known for not taking yourself too seriously has to be a novelty when it wasn't so long ago that people with his accent tended to be associated more with balaclavas.
But I couldn't have been the only one who was squirming a little in my chair as I watched him getting all loved-up with Caroline. We get it, guys, you're in lurve. So get a room already and spare us all from having to feel like voyeurs for watching your playful foreplay. What next -- his 'n' hers matching tattoos? The couple's wedding night on pay per view?
You'd think McIlroy would have learned his lesson after splitting up with childhood sweetheart Holly Sweeney. Leaving her gave him a rare taste of negative publicity, as Holly told all about life chez Rory, including how he used to watch Caroline Wozniacki on TV and admit how much he fancied her. (If you're reading, Caroline, hide that remote, it's clearly safest in the long run). Rather than being more discreet second-time round, the golfer has clearly decided to go for this romancing in public business with a vengeance.
When Rory took his girlfriend's racket and proceeded to have a knockabout with Sharapova -- winning a point in the process, incidentally, which doesn't say much for women's tennis, albeit that Maria wasn't trying too hard -- the TV commentator even remarked that it was a shame Sasha Vujacic, Sharapova's Slovenian basketball-playing fiance, wasn't there too, so they could play a game of mixed doubles.
It's heartening to see someone so -- how shall I put this gently? -- geeky, yes, that's the word, being successful with the ladies. Rory offers hope to ordinary-looking guys everywhere. It's probably also wise to live your life so publicly so that there are no secrets to be dug up later for others to make money from. If there's any money to be mined from the McIlroy name, Rory has wisely decided he'll be the one wielding the pick.
I still can't help feeling nostalgic for the days when celebrities kept their private lives private, when all we saw of them outside of their work was glimpses on the red carpet. Being so open with the public means running the risk of losing some of that mystique of otherness which made them such a hot property to begin with. The world simply doesn't need another Posh 'n' Becks, posing in their pants, turning 'amour' into a million at every opportunity.
And, to be brutally honest, it didn't need the first ones either.
SEE DECLAN LYNCH, PAGE 14