Rory McIlroy: Golf got me through Caroline Wozniacki agony

Rory McIlroy has revealed how a return to golf helped him overcome the emotional heartbreak of his split from fiancée Caroline Wozniacki.

McIlroy said the decision to compete in the BMW PGA Championship last year “gave me four or five hours of serenity or sanctuary away from what was happening in my private life”.

McIlroy this week returns to Wentworth to defend the title he won in spectacular fashion last year and set in train an incredible run of form which catapulted him to No. 1 in the world.

Ironically the Holywood star wasn’t due to play the event as the fallout continued from his decision to call off his wedding to Danish tennis star Wozniacki.

Yet the U-turn paid dividends as McIlroy claimed his first victory on European soil, clawing back a seven-shot deficit behind Thomas Bjorn on the final day with a closing 66 to beat Shane Lowry by a shot.

“I wasn’t going to play Wentworth last year, I wasn’t and it was only a few days before entries closed I decided to enter,” McIlroy said.

“I had my mind made up I wasn’t going to play given what was going on in my private life and given also I was not a fan of the golf course.

“A win can happen under the most bizarre circumstances and last year was all pretty bizarre.”

McIlroy, who last night attended the European Tour’s gala dinner near Heathrow Airport, arrives in London in a much better shape than a year ago. His Wentworth win sparked a stellar, two Major campaign that saw him win The Open, WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship in consecutive starts.

That form has continued into 2015, with wins in Dubai and at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play as well as last Sunday’s Wells Fargo Championship.

“A year on, I am in a better place. I am coming off a win last week at the Wells Fargo Championship and a victory a fortnight earlier in the Match-Play.

“So while I was not looking forward a year ago to Wentworth now that I played well last year and happened to pull off a win I am looking forward to teeing up Thursday.

“Being inside the ropes was a release for me and other than JP (Fitzgerald, his caddie) I was on my own and I was doing what I do best, playing golf.

“It gave me four or five hours of serenity or sanctuary away from what was happening in my private life.

“I guess when someone is confronted with emotional issues, you try to deal with it the best you can. I dealt with it by focusing on the job at hand. Looking back, it’s strange I could do that.”

Meanwhile McIlroy has revealed how he has dropped his body fat percentage from 24% to 10% and has added 20lbs of muscle.

His newfound fitness regimen — the Holywood man works out five times a week, 90 minutes a day — has reminded many of Tiger Woods.

The transformation also helped McIlroy become the first golfer to appear on the cover of Men’s Health magazine in April.

But some critics fear that extra muscle has been one of the factors in the increased number of injuries suffered by Woods in recent years. However McIlroy doesn’t believe such theories.

“I think golf has progressed, it has become more of an athletic sport,” McIlroy told The Dan Patrick Show.

“When you look at some of the moves guys make at the ball, you need to be strong in certain areas. You don’t need to be built like a linebacker but you need to have stability and strength in certain areas in your body.”

He also said that “If more golfers look athletic, it portrays a much better image for the game”.

He explained: “That encourages kids to maybe pick up the sport or pick up a club and maybe it encourages parents to get them into golfing as well.”

And in case you are wondering, Woods, at 39, can out-bench press his 26-year-old Nike stablemate.

“Tiger, I think,” McIlroy, who estimated he can bench some 230lbs to Woods’ 300, told Patrick. “I’ve probably got shorter arms, so I don’t have to move the bar quite as far as he does.”

McIlroy may be the man who has taken Woods’ crown as the top golfer in the world but now the hunter has become the hunted.

And McIlroy is relishing the challenge posed by the likes of Masters champion Jordan Speith and Rickie Fowler in the years ahead, arguing that rivalry is good for the sport.

“You look at some of other sports and some of the other rivalries, I’m thinking individual sports like tennis, Roger [Federer] and Rafa [Nadal], they made each other better… Phil [Mickelson] made Tiger better,” said McIlroy.

“It inspired me to see Jordan do what he did at Augusta. It inspired me to go out and maybe have a little edge, and a little bit more intensity,” he said. “Since then it’s been nice to pick up a couple of wins in my last three starts and I’m sure that’ll spur Jordan on as well. If you look at what Rickie [Fowler] did at The Players as well, there’s a lot of young guys that can go ahead now and take control of big golf tournaments, and again, that can only be good for golf.”

Mcllroy also signalled his intention to retire at 40.

He said: “That’s 14 years away, that’s longer than most sports people have, and I’ve already had an eight-year career in golf.

“Twenty five years should be enough to help me achieve what I want to.

“If there comes a time when I feel I can’t win or give it my best I’d very happily hang do something else.”

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