DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Rory McIlroy hasn’t devoted too much thought yet to how he’ll handle his next relationship after breaking up with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
Asked Wednesday at the Memorial Tournament if he intended to allow any subsequent romances to play out in public, McIlroy smiled sheepishly as he said, “I don’t know. It’s only been a week, so I’m not thinking that far ahead.”
The answer broke up an uncomfortable moment for the Northern Ireland star, who declined to discuss the details of the end of his engagement.
McIlroy, ranked sixth in the world, revealed at a news conference last week that he and Wozniacki, ranked 13th in women’s tennis, had separated. They had been planning their wedding.
The 25-year-old McIlroy was asked if he second-guessed himself for revealing the breakup at a news conference.
“It’s one of those things that it was a very public relationship,” he said. “And I thought it was best that instead of letting it linger and (feeding) rumors, just to have it right (out) there as soon as possible.”
Wozniacki, the 2009 U.S. Open runner-up, lost in the first round at the French Open within a week of the breakup.
McIlroy won the European Tour event at Wentworth over the weekend. He hopes to use this week’s Memorial Tournament as a springboard to the U.S. Open two weeks later at Pinehurst.
The couple had frequently posted pictures on social media of themselves together, traveling around the world while attending each other’s tournaments.
Without mentioning the relationship in so many words, McIlroy said such situations help people grow up.
“There’s been a few things that have happened in my life in the last couple of years that have been huge learning processes, whether it be splitting with a management company or new equipment or whatever else that it may be,” he said. “Every time you have some sort of adversity like that you learn from it and you become more mature and you make better decisions the next time. And in that way I’m definitely learning and I’m maturing.”
He added, “I’m pretty mature for a 25-year-old. If you were to get a few of my friends up here talking to you, they’d probably say the same thing.”
QUOTABLE: Host and tournament founder Jack Nicklaus, asked his best spot to sit and watch the action at Memorial Tournament: “My living room with a television set.”
LATEST HONOREE: Each year the Memorial Tournament recognizes a premier player or official who has made major contributions to the sport. This year’s honoree is Annika Sorenstam, who won 87 times, including 72 LPGA Tour events and 10 major titles, in her 16-year professional career.
Sorenstam, who had a bronze plaque with her likeness and achievements posted in a garden at the tournament, said she was overwhelmed when she got the phone call from Nicklaus.
“My kids took a photo of the little plaque yesterday and it feels a little bit unreal to see me there and with them,” she said of her inclusion with past honorees including Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Gary Player, Nancy Lopez and Arnold Palmer. “I welcome it. It gets me fired up to do more work off the course, which I’m doing now as far as giving back to the game.”
The Swede retired from competitive play in 2008 to marry Mike McGee – son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee – and raise children Ava and William. They spend part of their year in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Sorenstam has agreed to play in a celebrity golf tournament nearby, playing against men – just as she did when she played in the Colonial in 2003.
Nicklaus, who worked with Sorenstam on the golf course design for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, wasn’t familiar with the celebrity event or who would play in it. But he knew who he’d pick to win.
“She can still play. Don’t underestimate her,” he said. “She’ll be the best player there.”
RIGHT-LEANING: No left-hander has won in the Memorial Tournament’s 38 years.
A couple of notable non-righties talk as if that’s about to change.
“I don’t have a good answer for you why no left-handed player has won here,” said Phil Mickelson, who has withdrawn from the tournament as many times (2) as he’s finished in the top five in 13 starts. “I guess we haven’t had a great number of good left-handed players on our tour until recently. Now we’ve got some good ones. And I think it’s just a matter of time.”
Bubba Watson said the numbers favor right-handers.
“There’s more righties on tour than lefties,” said Watson, never in the top 20 in his eight trips to Muirfield Village. “Golf just goes in cycles. Maybe when one (lefty) wins, then maybe it will just happen that way.”
CH-CH-CH-CHANGES: The running joke is that Nicklaus can’t wait to tinker with the layout at Muirfield Village. Over the years, there aren’t very many holes that haven’t undergone a drastic transformation.
Yet there’s almost nothing new about the course heading into the opening round of the Memorial Tournament.
After last year’s Memorial, Nicklaus lengthened the difficult, uphill, par-4 closing hole by 40 yards. Many of the world’s top players saw it for the first time in last fall’s Presidents Cup competition.
“It’s amazing how they did the change this year,” said defending Memorial champion Matt Kuchar. “You can’t even tell where the old tee box was. There’s no outline of where it used to be. It’s not just grown over. It’s now part of a hillside slope.”
Almost nothing about the hole was changed except for pushing the tee back by 40 yards. As a result, most players must hit driver instead of 3-wood while avoiding the large tree just right of the landing area.
“There’ll be a lot more drivers off the tee just because that tree is 300 yards out now, and you’re looking at 6, 5 or 4 irons into the green for some guys,” Watson said.
TIGER TRACKS: Five-time Memorial winner Tiger Woods is still recovering from back surgery and will miss the tournament for the fourth time since 1997. He did not play in 2006 after the death of his father, Earl Woods, was battling knee problems in 2008 and had leg injuries throughout the summer of 2011 that sidelined him.
Woods called Nicklaus on Wednesday morning to wish him luck with the tournament and pass along his regrets that he wasn’t healthy enough to play this year.
“It was a very, very nice call,” Nicklaus said. “He said he’s doing well, progressing well, and he’s looking forward to getting back into the game. He misses it.”
Woods’ numbers at the tournament are incredible.
He has won more than $5 million in his 14 starts, an average of $360,525 per start. In addition to his victories in 1999-2001, 2009 and 2012, he’s also finished third twice and fourth once. And he’s never missed a cut.
Woods has banked $5,098 per competitive hole – and $1,312 per stroke taken.
FAVORITE (AUSSIE) SON: Jason Day was born in Beaudesert, Australia. Now he lives just a few miles away from Muirfield Village, where he’s a member.
He married an Ohio woman and now finds himself considered a local despite his hometown being 9,300 miles away.
“Oh, it’s huge,” he said of what it would mean to win the Memorial. “I play this course a lot and I practice out here pretty much every day. I’ve become friends with a lot of members here. My wife’s side of the family only lives an hour away. So we’re going to have a lot of people in town.”
Day is returning to action after missing six weeks with a ligament injury to his thumb. This will be only his second tournament since winning the WGC Match Play Championship in February. He had his left thumb put in a cast after finishing 20th at the Masters.
“I’m just excited that I can actually swing a club without pain,” Day said. “I kind of forced myself to play Augusta. It was sore then. And that probably set me back two to three weeks. When all’s said and done, with Augusta mixed in there, I’ve been out for three months – and that’s a long time.”
DIVOTS: The field includes seven of the top 10 players in the world ranking, 16 of the top 25 and 54 of the top 100. … Fingers crossed: The weather report at the notoriously wet and windy Memorial is for calm, warm, sunny weather all week. … Among those in the 120-player field is Carlos Ortiz of Mexico, the leading money-winner on the Web.com Tour. He’ll be making his PGA Tour debut. … Kuchar won by two shots over Kevin Chappell a year ago, with Kyle Stanley three more shots back in third. … Past champions in the field include Kuchar, Steve Stricker (2011), Justin Rose (2010), K.J. Choi (2007), Carl Pettersson (2006), Ernie Els (2004), Jim Furyk (2002) and Vijay Singh (1997).
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