“I’m very single and very happy.” The words of Rory McIlroy as he faced the media ahead of this week’s Scottish Open.
For fans of the Northern Irishman, this declaration should be greeted with genuine delight, the former world No.1 having had no troubles to seek over the past 18 months.
A wretched loss of form, an acrimonious split from his former management company, and an equally bitter (but nothing like as litigious) break-up with his fiancée, Caroline Wozniacki, have taken some spring out of the 25-year-old’s steps of late.
Encouragingly, though, he appears to be bouncing back.
His demeanour in the media centre today was in stark contrast to the tearful, dejected figure McIlroy cut at Wentworth ahead of the BMW PGA Championship just under two months ago. Dealing with heartbreak – and causing heartbreak – in front of gossip-hungry global audience would weary even the most outwardly energetic of souls.
However, holding court at Royal Aberdeen, the two-time major winner looked much more like the Rory we all know and love. He cracked jokes, gave thoughtful, considered answers, and, for the first time in a long time, looked entirely comfortable within himself.
"Central to Rory McIlroy's return to form and renewed confidence appears to have been putting his own needs above those of others."
For the last 18 months, he has carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Today, though, he appeared ready to have it at his feet all over again - starting this week, perhaps.
“I feel like my game’s in good shape,” he remarked. “I'd love to say I expect to get into contention and see how my game feels under pressure on this sort of golf course, but I'm just going to go out there and try and play the best that I can.”
Central to Rory’s renewed confidence appears to have been putting his own needs above those of others for a change. He wasn’t ready to get married and settle down with Wozniacki. He admitted as much himself. So, he ended the relationship. Some will call that brave. Others will call it selfish. One thing that’s not up for debate, however, is that it could well be the decision that resurrects his career.
“I just live my life and people can say or write whatever they want,” he said. Take from that what you will but the implication seemed to be being happy and playing golf are back to being McIlroy’s two main priorities once again.
And that should be music to the ears of everyone – his opponents excepted, of course.
Rory McIlroy at the Scottish Open
Rory McIlroy tees off at 8.40am tomorrow, alongside Jamie Donaldson and Thongchai Jaidee, in the first round of the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen. See the full draw here.