Rory McIlroy on new fiancée Erica Stoll: 'She has a calming presence and a sereneness'
If any of Rory McIlroy's many admirers fear that his recent engagement will lead to a repeat of history, and another derailing of his career, they need not worry.
Different times, different characters and, for McIlroy, the sense that his "low-key" relationship will actually assist his quest to return to world No 1.
McIlroy (26) asked Erica Stoll (28) to become his fiancée on a trip to Paris last week and after it came to light - when she turned up at a glitzy Belfast function wearing the diamond ring - the instant comparisons on social media were as inevitable as they were insensitive.
McIlroy infamously broke up with tennis player Caroline Wozniacki in 2013 after the wedding invitations had been sent out and, as he then went on to win that very week, the speculation was that the high-profile relationship had been culpable for his previous tumble down the rankings.
Understandably, the Ulsterman was not about to go down that route yesterday when opening up for the first time about his engagement, preferring to highlight the positives of this relationship.
Stoll, in her role working for the PGA of America, first met McIlroy at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, where she helped him make his singles match after he had confused his tee-time.
"Erica has been around quite a lot, at tournaments this year, but we have really just tried to keep it low-key," McIlroy said. "She is a very low-key person, not the kind to broadcast stuff, but that side of my life is really, really good now. We are excited, our parents are excited, so it is a really happy time.
"For me, Erica brings such a level of normality to everything. She has a calming presence, a sereneness and that's not just on me; it is noticeable in any company.
"She has been a great influence on me and has given such a great balance to my life; between who I am when people see me out here and who I am at home."
McIlroy was relaxed when speaking at the Facebook offices in Dublin and seems sure the wedding bells will not distract him, although the nuptials are not impending.
"I'm all for people scrutinising my golf or even for criticising me for going to play football," he said.
"Again, it is about balance and that makes it so much easier to go out and play because that side of things is calm."
Fortunately the mood in his professional life is finally in tune with that of his personal life.
Following the injury in July, he struggled to return to the heights of 2014 - in which he won two Majors - and had to watch Jordan Spieth and Jason Day pass him in the rankings.
But then came last month's season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, where victory earned him his third European Tour order of merit title in four years and ensured he could go into his Christmas break at the Stoll family home in Rochester, New York, toasting his golf as well as the moment in Paris when he popped the question.
"I wouldn't say I did it in the traditional way, no," McIlroy said. "We had planned to go to Paris since May; we were always going to go. Then what happened a few weeks before made us unsure. But when we got there it felt great.
"People were just getting on with things and I thought (the proposal)might make the trip even better. So we went out for dinner and that was that. It was a special way to end the year." (© Daily Telegraph, London)