• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

The only question that mattered

With all this meteorological misery that's been dumped from the heavens of late, there's been a lot of fairly grim, downbeat news clogging up our screens.

Rory McIlroy teed up 2014 by proposing to his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki. Picture: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy teed up 2014 by proposing to his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki. Picture: Getty Images

Indeed, this correspondent has become so accustomed to bleak tidings that if I stuck on the television and saw a report dolefully stating that every golf course in the country had been forced to shut, accompanied by footage of masked demolition experts bulldozing clubhouses into shattered heaps, I'd probably just give a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders and sigh, "oh well, it's probably for the best."

As far as 2013 was concerned for Rory McIlroy, it was something of an annus horribilis; a 12-month rolling news story of toil and trouble. That was until the last knockings of the season. December produced a much-needed first win of a hitherto barren campaign and the Northern Irishman brought in the bells by proposing to his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki. With the exception of, say, a few technologically challenged tribesmen in Papua New Guinea, the news that she said 'yes' was picked up by a salivating online world quicker than you could get back up off a bended knee.

What the great Gary Player will make of this act of union is anyone's guess. When McIlroy's troubles raged, both on the course and off it, during the peak season, the Black Knight threw his own tuppence- worth into the pot. "The thing is for a man like Rory with talent galore, he's got to make sure he has a woman like I've got, who has been married [to me] for 56 years," pontificated Player, as he extolled the virtues of married bliss. "He's got to be intelligent and find the right wife."

If McIlroy wasn't being told what to look for in a woman, then he was being told to live a life of unswerving dedication that would make the commitment of a Trappist Monk appear decidedly half-hearted.

"Concentrate on golf, nothing else," declared the pious Nick Faldo during last July's Open at Muirfield as some of golf's biggest hitters lined up to offer their pearls of wisdom. "When you retire, in your 40s or 50s, hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it. So just concentrate on golf."

It seemed everybody had something to say; McIlroy should be doing this, he should be doing that and he certainly shouldn't be doing the other. It was no wonder the 24-year-old looked completely scunnered at times. There was plenty of fuel to fling on to the increasingly roaring fire, of course.

There was the scrutiny surrounding his change of clubs following an all-conquering 2012 that saw him top the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic; the messy legal wrangles with his former management; the tittle-tattle over his relationship with the aforementioned Wozniacki; the palaver over which country to represent at the Olympics; his curious and abrupt walk off the course during the Honda Classic; his slide from world No.1 to No.6 on the global pecking order. The one thing not making the headlines was any glorious golf.

Last month's narrow victory over the in-form Adam Scott at the Australian Open was as welcome as a burst water main in the desert. It ended a title drought stretching back to his success in the DP World Tour Championship in November 2012 and gave McIlroy new hope for the new year. "My message now to those people who still want to criticise me is this win should silence any further criticism," he said defiantly in the wake of that triumph Down Under. Yes, 2013 was a year like no other for McIlroy; a season of furious tumult and one peppered with a seemingly unrelenting barrage of questions to which he struggled to find answers. For a young man operating under the unflinching gaze of an unforgiving modern media and with enormous expectations lumped upon his shoulders, it was a vast burden to bear.

There were plenty of signs that he was creaking under the strain - he admitted to feeling "brain dead after a 79 on day one of the Open - but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. When all the mechanics are working - the rhythm, balance and flow of swing - McIlroy in his pomp is, quite simply, an engrossing golfing spectacle. Much of 2013 may have been hands over the eyes stuff but there are signs from McIlroy that 2014 could be very pleasing on them.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

203539