Wozzilroy: A Truly Modern Romance

Published: 02nd January 2014 05:14 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd January 2014 05:14 PM   |  A+A-


McIlroy and Wozniacki's relationship has blossomed in the public eye and has a sporting chance of success, writes Oliver Brown in a column from London

'Wozzilroy', to use the label that a lovesick Rory McIlroy once had engraved upon a golf club, is something of a parable for our prurient times. So ravenous has the appetite become for his romantic bulletins that the health of his relationship with Caroline Wozniacki could be gauged by whether or not she appeared in his Twitter avatar. Finally, with a simple "she said yes!" - proving, perhaps, that McIlroy is as much of a sucker for Sydney's new year fireworks as the rest of us - the voyeurism can cease.

Since their manacling in 2010 the pair have rather enjoyed throwing out tantalising titbits to satiate a breathless public. "Movie night," McIlroy would tweet, complete with a picture of his gargantuan Florida television. I have sometimes wondered how fabulous a date can really be when reduced to a form of live-blogging exercise, but put me down as a Luddite when it comes to the dissemination of undying devotion. He was at it again recently, mischievously scotching rumours of a break-up with the hashtag "mygirl". The possessive pronoun! Sound the klaxons!

The most striking truth about this trans-sporting liaison is that everybody seems to have an opinion. Either one simpers over the couple in tones usually reserved for newly-hatched emperor penguins, or one gravely depicts them as insuperable roadblocks in each other's careers.

Take this doom-laden pronouncement by Gary Player, just prior to a social media meltdown over whether McIlroy had taken umbrage at his belle photographing him asleep with his mouth open: "For a man like Rory with talent galore, he has to make sure he has a woman like I have, who has been married to me for 56 years and who has only encouraged me to do well and make sacrifices."

Player belongs to a more patrician age. His agony-uncle advice sounds rather as if it was plucked from the classics of Fifties advertising: "I'm giving my wife a Kenwood Chef", perhaps, or "She'll be happier with a Hoover". His wife Vivienne accepted the same lot as Barbara Nicklaus, dutifully fulfilling her demarcated roles as mother, homemaker and benevolent cheerleader for her husband's genius. It is to McIlroy's great credit that in 2014 he perceives a different path, convinced that two world-class athletes with globe-girdling careers can still make one another content. Omnia vincit amor, Gary. Have you read your Virgil lately?

McIlroy has also drawn a rebuke from Sir Nick Faldo for not practising sufficiently - seen most memorably when he scrapped a range session at Wentworth in 2011 in favour of a candlelit dinner by the Eiffel Tower.

Even at the tender age of 24 he has won enough and seen enough to appreciate that his innate gift will always come back, given the longevity of a golfer's shelf-life. In love, opportunities to seize 'The One' are by nature more evanescent.

It is merely Caroline's misfortune that as Mrs McIlroy, she stands to attract a polarised press regardless. Her man wins, she is cast as his rock, his muse, his soulmate. Lose, as he has tended to do more often of late, and she morphs into the blonde Beelzebub, ensnaring poor Rory with her devilish Danish charms.

To track their trajectories through golf and tennis is to recognise that while McIlroy has reached world No?1 by preternatural talent, Wozniacki has owed such status to her sheer conscientiousness. She has admitted that where she punishes herself for a mistake by working harder, he reacts with a shrug. McIlroy, giving the lie to any notion that sporting couples must by instinct be insufferably competitive, regards his own failures with sanguinity - indeed, within 48 hours of missing a US Open cut in San Francisco, he was in Eastbourne to support Wozniacki.

So much, then, for the wisdom of David Brent, who paid his squeeze Carol the ultimate backhanded compliment: "For me to be attracted to a woman, she has to be as intelligent, or slightly less intelligent, than me - and she is."

McIlroy, with a set of values to encapsulate modern man, is the anti-Brent, which ought to serve him well in navigating the rubble-strewn terrain of a sporting marriage. The golf-tennis alliance can be a volatile one, with Greg Norman divorcing Chris Evert after 18 months amid accusations she was too controlling.

The template for success has been established by Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, who have remained aloof from underlying rivalry by the fact they hold 30 grand slam titles between them. McIlroy is comforted by the notion that he and his fiancee could yet savour shared glory.

And if he needed any final reassurance, it might lie in Wozniacki's disclosure that at home, she calls him "Champ". What man could possibly resist?

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