Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship: Rory McIlroy claims to be 'smarter' having learned from previous distractions

The Northern Irishman says Caroline Wozniacki 'is the right girl for me' following their recent engagement

Though they are handsomely rewarded for doing so, standing on a stage waving a golf club in some kind of dance simulation in deference to local customs represents a considerable challenge for professional golfers. It requires them to set aside all sense of self in order to execute the moves while keeping a straight face and then speak gushingly about the experience afterwards.

It is called PR, of course, and Rory McIlroy is well versed in the practice. At least this year in Abu Dhabi the subsequent smiles were in keeping with a state of mind much removed from the turmoil with which he began 2013 at the same venue. A missed cut here on his unveiling as Nike’s new golfing mannequin, presaged a season of personal and professional turbulence from which he has only just recovered.

A first victory in more than a year was recorded in Australia last month, followed by his proposal to tennis siren Caroline Wozniacki on New Year's Eve under Sydney Harbour Bridge. So it was in a state of raging contentment that McIlroy pitched up at the HSBC Golf Championship for his first engagement of 2014.

"I don't think there can be a bigger decision you have to make than asking someone to marry you," he said. "If anything, it will only help to have that stability, knowing everything in that regard in my life is set. It's a big step in anyone's life to make that decision, and obviously it’s not one that you take lightly. If you get engaged, you plan on spending the rest of your life with that person. I feel like she's definitely the right girl for me."

In committing to a life partner at just 24, McIlroy conforms to the Gary Player school of conservative golfing wisdom, which places the love of a good woman at the heart of professional success. Certainly, McIlroy can do without the emotional undertow attached to poor form, management strife and romantic uncertainty that knocked him off the top of the world rankings back into seventh place in 2013.

"I am not going to sit here and say that all the stuff going on off the course wasn't a distraction and that it didn't affect me," he said. "Of course it did. You’re thinking of other things when you really shouldn't have to. But I've learnt from it and I’m smarter because of it.

"It's great that I've gone through it at this stage in my career and not 15 years down the line. So off the golf course, I'm in a great place and I am happy. I'm feeling good about where I am mentally.

"I feel good with everything that's going on off the golf course, and it's hopefully shaping up to be a good year." McIlroy is grouped with touring American totem Phil Mickelson and last year's winner, Jamie Donaldson, in the first round. It is to be hoped Mickelson is more convincing on the course than he was off it. His packaged PR speak about learning new cultures does not bear repeating here. Suffice to say he will have to do a lot better to trouble the scorers in a deep field.

In the absence of Justin Rose, who has been sidelined by a shoulder injury, the British gaze falls heavily on Luke Donald who, like McIlroy, is seeking to put behind him a slump of dizzying proportions during which he has plummeted from second to 19th in the world rankings.

A new coach has given him fresh impetus, though he would not have enjoyed the 12-hour delay in the polar vortex of North America en route to the desert.

Video: Henrik Stenson - 'I'm under pressure to win Abu Dhabi Golf Championship'

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone