Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki: Newly betrothed golfer must show he is the best man in 2014

 

If love conquers all, the year ahead might yet be the one of his dreams. Rory McIlroy announced his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday by tweeting pictures of the pair from Australia. “My first victory of 2014,” he said, adding the hashtag #shesaidyes.

A year ago, snaps of McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki in Sydney heralded the most difficult season of his professional career during which he had to field questions about the death of romance as well as his game.

Now, following a first win in more than a year, at the Australian Open last month, McIlroy is back in Australia with his betrothed preparing for an entirely different start to the year.

Wozniacki is building towards the first major of the tennis season, the Australian Open in Melbourne in a fortnight, the same week that McIlroy opens his account for 2014 at the HSBC Champions in Abu Dhabi. It was there a year ago that he unveiled his new Nike clubs following a £78 million switch from Titleist. The missed cut sent out a flare warning of turbulence ahead. The five victories of 2012, which saw him end the year at No 1 in the rankings, seemed a world away as he disappeared into a vortex of poor form and questionable decision-making. It was not until the autumn of last year that he began to feel his old confidence return.

The win in Melbourne on the first day of December, reeling in the Masters champion Adam Scott with a birdie at the 72nd hole, was, he hopes, the turning point.

McIlroy is still only 24 years old. The mistakes he has made are as much to do with the sense of omnipotence bred by high achievement at a young age. He learned last year the oldest lesson in the book, namely that talent alone is no guarantee of success. McIlroy acknowledged that he bowled into 2013 under-cooked, and would not make the same mistake again.

Thus we shall see him in the desert again within a fortnight in Dubai, where he encounters Tiger Woods for the first time this year. That confrontation threatens to be one of the great themes of the year. Woods enjoyed his best season since his own fall in 2009, posting five wins, the majority at high-profile events, but not yet that 15th major.

McIlroy is at the other end of the acquisition curve, needing to re-establish his credentials as the likely heir to Woods as the game’s dominant player. To do that he must add a major of his own in 2014. A year into the relationship with Nike and seemingly settled domestically, McIlroy is in a much better place than he was 12 months ago.

The legal dispute with his former management company, Horizon, rumbles on, but that is within his gift to resolve at any point if he is so minded before matters are scheduled to come before a Dublin court in October. There are millions at stake, which are as nothing compared to what’s at stake on the course. Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki used their Twitter pages to reveal the engagement Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki used their Twitter pages to reveal the engagement

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