I have had security guards at my house every night -- McIlroy
Published 09/08/2011 | 05:00
IT'S official ... Rory McIlroy yesterday confirmed he'll rejoin the US Tour in 2012, and the 22-year-old Ulsterman is planning to buy a place of his own in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Nine months after deciding to give up his PGA Tour card for 2011, McIlroy has been persuaded by a number of factors, both on and off the golf course, to make this about-face.
From a golfing perspective it made little sense for a player whose game so clearly suits the climate, courses and playing conditions in America to limit the number of events he can play on the PGA Tour as a non-member, especially now that June's record-breaking victory at the US Open has established McIlroy as a massive crowd favourite in North America.
Significant changes in McIlroy's personal life -- for example, the end of his relationship with childhood sweetheart Holly Sweeney -- have made spending long spells away from home in Moneyreagh, Co Down, less difficult.
Meanwhile, McIlroy reveals that his breathtaking win at Congressional has had a dramatic effect on his life in Northern Ireland -- he's even had to hire a private security team to guard his house.
"I've had security guards at my house every night since I won the US Open, just patrolling around the area," he said. "There have been people driving up the driveway and stuff like that which isn't very nice. It is something that I just had to put in place, I'm afraid.
"It's tough but it is just the world we live in unfortunately. If you're in the position we're in, you're so public. It's something I am just going to have to deal with."
As the fastest-rising star in world golf, McIlroy always was going to have to come to terms with life in a goldfish bowl ... and dating Denmark's world No 1 tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki should stoke up the paparazzi even more.
In the States, however, he should be able to enjoy a tad more privacy than he does at home.
"I can deal with people walking up in restaurants when you're eating and wanting autographs and photographs and stuff like that," he explained. "That's fine, it's not a big deal. It's the stuff going on at home that's hard to accept.
"So much has changed in my life since winning the US Open. There've been moments when I think 'what's happening here, what's going on?'.
"When you grow up and dream of being a professional golfer and dream of winning Majors, all you really think about is the golf and playing in front of great crowds and on unbelievable golf courses and winning trophies.
"You never think about the other side of it and that is the side that takes a bit of getting used to."
Insisting, "playing full-time in America is always what I wanted to do," McIlroy went on: "It's just going to be nice to have somewhere to put all your stuff when you're over here to the States for three or four months.
"I'm not looking at anything aside from an apartment or something like that, nothing big."
He revealed the friendship he has forged with legend Jack Nicklaus has influenced his decision to seek a place near The Bear Club in West Palm Beach. Don't be surprised if McIlroy signs a contract to represent that club on Tour when his current deal with Lough Erne expires next year.
"I've practised at The Bear Club a lot and have a great relationship with Mr Nicklaus and know a lot of the guys down there -- Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els and Luke Donald," he said.
"It's not too far from Miami and it'd be nice to go down there for a few weekends now and again, maybe catch a few basketball games."
After posting four rounds in the 60s and finishing in a tie for sixth on 10-under at the Bridgestone Invitational, McIlroy is the hottest form-option by far of Ireland's four-man 'team' at this week's US PGA.
Padraig Harrington, the US PGA Champion in 2008, was too wild and woolly from tee to green at Firestone to inspire any confidence in his ability to lift the Wanamaker Trophy once again this week on the even-tougher Highlands Course at Atlanta Athletic Club.
The Dubliner missed the cut on the last occasion the final Major of the season was played at the home club of US legend Bobby Jones, when David Toms was crowned champion.
Graeme McDowell's failure to shake off the gremlins which have affected his game for the past six months hardly suggest a return to Major-winning form for the Portrush man this week.
Though British Open champion Darren Clarke eased his way back into the big time in the United States with a reasonable performance over the weekend at Firestone, one fears the beefy Ulsterman might melt in the cruel 90-plus degree heat in Atlanta.
McIlroy seems confident about his prospects on a course which will run faster and play harder than Congressional.
"I felt I really drove the ball well last week, which will be important here," he said. "If I'd held a few more putts, I could have given myself a chance to win in Akron but, hopefully, they'll all go in this week and I'll be able to have a good run at it."
He arrived in Atlanta on Sunday night and resisted temptation to play a course he's never seen before, saying: "I'll just out there to map the greens and get used to them."
And that's where McIlroy's prospects of winning his second Major title will be determined next weekend.