Rory knew in his heart he had to call off the wedding
An exclusive insight into the break-up of the world's number one sports couple
IT was a week before Valentine's Day and it would be Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki's first to celebrate as a husband and wife to be. Rory had an airport stopover and decided to kill a few hours on his Twitter page.
A cute long-haired brunette, a golfer at a US college, decided to grab the opportunity. "Are you serious about the whole engagement thing? Because I am single and available," she teased. Flattered, Rory reposted the comment to his two-million strong following. "Very serious," came the reply.
Three months later, after a romantic break together in Monte Carlo and several hundred wedding invites in the post, Rory had called it all off.
'Wozzilroy' fans were stunned at the announcement – despite the fact that the Sunday Independent and our sister title, the Irish Independent, had reported that they had split, not once, but twice in less than a year.
A report about the couple's last break-up before their ultimately doomed engagement, on August 28 on the front page of the Sunday Independent, prompted Rory to go to extraordinary public lengths to refute the claims made by this newspaper.
Within hours of the story appearing, Rory told his fans: "I'd love to know who this guy (sic) source is?? Seems to pop up in the papers all the time and is wrong 99.9pc of the time!"
Another story about profile pictures on their social media sites prompted a reaction from Caroline as she fired off: "Since my profile [picture] made big headlines I better change it again . . . Don't believe all you read in the papers."
The fact that the two-time major winner insisted on publicly responding to articles originating in his home country gave an insight into his character.
One of the world's top sports stars, who flies on private jets, takes five-star holidays in the Maldives and could go on to make a billion euro, cares what people think.
The couple never seemed entirely at ease with the global interest in their relatiionship.
Some questioned what they expected if they chose to live every minute detail of their relationship on an online platform before millions of curious fans.
From Twitter we followed updates on their Pomeranian dog Bruno, who they said they were the 'mommy and daddy' to; we learned that they loved sitting in with box sets of Breaking Bad and Scandal. Caroline couldn't prepare a bubble bath without letting the world know about it.
Fans followed their dates to the movies and restaurants, their work-out routines and who wore the pants in the relationship (Caroline claimed she was the boss).
It was endless and it was exhausting. But it was only part of the picture.
This weekend, friends from Rory's innermost circle gave an exclusive insight into their relationship.
One told the Sunday Independent: "Typically they would get to spend three days together and typically two of those days would just be so happy and the third not so much.
"If they went to the gym, if they went to the movies, if he bought her a jacket, if they had dinner together – and he tweeted about it – then that would be one of the really happy days, but the next day it might be completely different."
Another friend said: "The thing about RORs (a nickname his friends have for the golfer) is that he is not aggressive. He is well liked on the golf course because if he makes a shot that makes no sense, he will give it a lash and that is why he is such an iconic golfer, but off the course he is really easy -going and very gentle.
"You can't have a shouting match with him. He doesn't get into arguments really. So there would be one day in three where Caroline would be upset and he would be quiet and trying to pretend everything is fine."
Again, a separate but impeccably placed source explained how there was a big divide in his life between his fiancée and his long-time crew.
"There were his old friends and there was Caroline... no crossover," they said.
"Maybe that was our fault, I don't know, but I always felt that she didn't like anything to do with Northern Ireland because of Holly."
Indeed, Holly Sweeney, whose heart he had broken, his first love, had lingered on like a ghost from the past.
She too was jilted by the sports star, who went from being a budding hopeful to a world-class star during their relationship.
She told friends: "I never thought he would do this to me" after he broke the news that he had met a new girl, a tennis player, in Germany and that he wanted to give it a shot with her.
He left his ex a nice parting gift of a luxury home before setting off on his next romantic adventure.
But after the first flush of love with Caroline it wasn't long until close friends began to detect unhappiness on Rory's part.
A source said: "We were not surprised at the original break-up, but we were really surprised when they got back together again so soon after it and tweeted the photo of them having breakfast together."
Before the couple reunited, Rory began swapping texts with Irish model Nadia Forde after meeting her on a night out in Dublin.
The golfer sent a series of texts to her phone after he was introduced to her as he partied with friends at the 37 Dawson Street venue.
But the flirtation did not last long and he reunited with Caroline soon after. A short time later, the engagement was announced.
Caroline posted a picture of her eye-watering rock accompanied by fireworks on New years Eve and there was more than a few raised eyebrows among his pals.
He was once again in the throes of young love and he felt they had sorted their issues out and would really give it a go.
In recent weeks Caroline started hinting at retiring early and having babies as soon as they wed.
"I want to be a relatively young mother, and I do not see it as being too far in the future," the 23-year-old said.
"Therefore I have no dream to make my mark. Instead, I enjoy economic freedom my hard work has given me. It means I can give my children the best start in life by being there 100 per cent for them."
Rory began to get cold feet when the reality of marriage became clear to him after sending out the invitations.
He wondered if he was making a massive mistake and eventually made the brave decision to call it off rather than walk down the aisle.
Caroline was shattered. Rory was devastated, but knew in his heart he was making the right decision.
His friends have sent messages of support but for the time being there is radio silence as he tries to come to terms with losing someone he saw as his best friend.
A source said: "It's funny because we have been friends with him for so long we kind of knew what he would want us to do in this situation without him telling us which is A) shut up and B) don't say anything bad about Caroline.
"You won't catch any of his real friends saying anything bad about her. They may be relieved to see the end of the relationship but they are not going to dump on her."
Relief is something Rory may feel too when his pain is over and he starts to get his game back on track.
In the meantime, word on the street is there are more than a few happy women at his new-found singleton status now they have a shot at appearing on the arm of one of the golfing world's most eligible bachelors.