Tuesday 16 July 2019

Pair of screaming eagles help Rory McIlroy rise above emotional fall-out

Rory McIlroy tees off on the third hole during day one of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy tees off on the third hole during day one of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Karl MacGinty

Don't cry for Rory McIlroy! The truth is, he still can turn to his first love, golf, for comfort following this week's break-up with fiancée Caroline Wozniacki.

After Wednesday's admission that his engagement to the Danish tennis ace had been terminated by "mutual consent," the world wondered if the emotional fallout from this sudden split might cause McIlroy to lose his game.

Any worries on that score evaporated as the Holywood native landed two screaming eagles during an opening 68 at the BMW PGA Championship.

This was McIlroy's best round in five years at Wentworth and propelled him into the top-10 at a tournament he's found challenging at the best of times.

"I played well, hit a lot of solid shots. It's a good round for me around a course I've notoriously struggled on in the past," said McIlroy. He couldn't remember the last time he'd landed two eagles in the same round.

In an effort to find refuge from the upheaval in his life, McIlroy revealed: "I haven't turned on my phone for a few days and I've given my laptop away. I'm sort of living like it's the '60s or '70s again.

"Look, everyone goes through things like this. It's part of life, it's s****y and it's tough. It's the way it is. You know people that come up to me have been very supportive and it's nice."

Warmly applauded onto the first tee, he opened with a comfortable par, but appeared unsettled after a passing storm forced a one hour 45 minute interruption in play.

Yet he shook off any lethargy with a brilliant 130 yards pitching wedge that landed in the fringe at seven, sucked back and rolled around the saucer-like green into the cup.

McIlroy stood beaming with his arms aloft. It was a pivotal moment.

Clearly uplifted, the 25-year-old produced one of the most spectacular shots of his career at the par five 12th – an exquisite 203-yard five-iron which homed-in on the flag like a laser-guided missile.

McIlroy left himself a tap-in for eagle three, having gone within inches of the first albatross of his life.

"That's one thing my dad has over me," he mused. "He's had an albatross and I haven't."

McIlroy then showed his fighting spirit had not been sapped as he made a gutsy six at 17 after carving his second into an unplayable lie deep in a rhododendron bush. The champion within simply would not be denied.

Due to the weather dealys, 33 players were still on the golf course when darkness fell last night.

PA Media

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