WITH a kiss and a hug, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki put her shock Wimbledon exit firmly behind her yesterday as she flew to Ireland to cheer on boyfriend Rory McIlroy.
The World No7 (that’s Caroline) put her arm around the World No2 (Rory of course) just an hour before the golfer walked onto the first tee to begin his bid for Irish Open glory.
“Have you seen me da or the rest of them?” asked Rory, eyes lit up as they met.
“Yes, I was talking to him earlier. Everything’s good,” replied the Caroline, smiling from ear to ear outside the VIP area at the clubhouse here at Royal Portrush.
The North’s Sports Minister Arlene Foster moved in to say hello.
“I am delighted to see you here,” said the politician, before adding diplomatically, “sorry about Wimbeldon.”
If Caroline was upset, she certainly wasn’t showing it.
“I am so delighted to be here,” she said, before chatting to Rory’s friends, away from the huge 27,000 spectactors out on the course.
Dressed casually in a black track suit and trainers, the 21-year-old followed her boyfriend on the first round, accompanied by Rory’s parents, Gerry and Rosie.
But she was more thunderstruck than lovestruck when rain stopped play as Rory completed the 9th – and thousands of fans ran for cover.
“That’s yer woman Caroline whateverhersecondname is,” whispered one female spectator on the 6th, “is she out of Wimbledon?”
One wag responded to muted chuckles: “I thought she was a Liverpool fan.”
When play resumed 90 minutes later, the sun was out again and Caroline, now wearing sunglasses and eating from a cone of chips, chuckled as she and Rory joked during his warm-up.
There was an equally jovial mood when another famous couple visited the tournament here yesterday as Martin McGuinness kept another royal appointment – this time at Royal Portrush.
The Deputy First Minister and his other half – First Minister Peter Robinson – went on a tour of the course, meeting many of the top players.
A day after his famous handshake with Queen Elizabeth, the only sign of her majesty yesterday was on the Union Jack jubilee flags erected on lampposts on the entrance to the course.
There to shake hands at the clubhouse was a very apolitical (in those terms) local, Darren Clarke.
But he had politics of a different nature on his mind, taking the opportunity to blast a National Trust objection to the nearby proposed Bushmills Golf and Spa Resort (hotel, courses and golf lodges) which is the North’s longest running planning dispute.
“It’s the biggest load of rubbish,” he told the Ministers as he shook hands, “the development will be of huge benefit to people here.”
Peter Robinson wanted to know how things were going with the first Irish Open in the North since 1953.
“All the pros are loving it here,” responded proud Open winner Clarke, “they are shocked by the crowds and the atmosphere out there; it’s so good to see.”
The North’s leaders then headed off to the VIP lounge for lunch.
There was no hand of history on any shoulders yesterday – just one from an irate Northern Ireland Tourist Board official on this reporter’s shoulder.
“You can’t be in here,” she said, several times.
By the time McIlroy reached the 18th Caroline was laughing and chatting with the businessman Dermot Desmond.
Unfortunately boyfriend Rory dropped a shot to finish the day -2.
“It was great to see her (Caroline) today,” he said, “but we all wish she wasn’t here and still at Wimbeldon.”