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'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil