Rory McIlroy is sitting at the top of his profession after winning golf’s oldest trophy in a wire-to-wire victory at the British Open two Sundays ago. Not to be outdone, his former flame and ex-fiancé Caroline Wozniacki appears to be back on her game as well, matching McIlroy’s win with one of her own. Just two hours before Rory took his title, she decisively won the women’s final at the Istanbul Cup. Now two weeks later, both athletes are gearing up for another tournament, setting out to prove to everyone watching that it is not about the love they had for each other, but a love they have for the game that drives them.
It was only two months ago that the high-profile sports couple called off their wedding. Speculation swirled that the young Irish golfer, who is one year Wozniacki’s senior, got cold feet after wedding invitations were sent out for November nuptials. That capped off a nearly seven-month engagement that started off with a bang and a New Year’s Eve proposal. Three days later, McIlroy supposedly called off the engagement in a brief phone conversation that left the Denmark beauty in a state of shock.
It is impossible to know what really transpired, but Wozniacki did say that the breakup “came as a bit of a shock,” according to the USA Today. Whatever really happened, it did not fare well for Wozniacki on the tennis court. The 24-year-old, who had also just celebrated a birthday on July 11, was not on her A-game and was bounced from her first match following the split. A first round defeat at the French Open was something she had not suffered since she was 16 years old. Meanwhile, McIlroy went on to win his post break-up tournament in a stunning, come-from-behind fashion.
The breakup could be considered a wakeup call, at least for their careers. Both McIlroy and Wozniacki had horrendous seasons in 2013. Rory was missing cuts left and right, while Caroline was losing to no named opponents that dropped her deeper and deeper in the rankings. After the split, McIlroy and Wozniacki are proving that success is not predicated on love or a love lost, but simply a love for the game.
The numbers never lie. When the two bright-eyed 20-somethings met in 2011, their careers were taking off in full swing. Caroline had won five of her first 15 tournaments the year before they officially started dating and once it became official, Rory won his first of three major championships – all was right with the world. He would go onto win a second major the following year and solidify himself as the next great golf prodigy. Right around that time is when it all started to turn south. According to Yahoo, Wozniacki only won four of the 61 tournaments she entered while dating Rory McIlroy, nothing close to her stellar results prior to dating the golf star and the torrid pace she was on when they met. McIlroy, on the other hand, began to lose his winning ways too, playing around and over the cut line for much of the 2013 season. He still showed glimpses of greatness, but it was clear that his game had fallen off.
Fast-forward to 2014, a new season and what appears to be a return to greatness for both McIlroy and Wozniacki. She made the round of 16 at Wimbledon for the first time since 2011, won in Istanbul and made the semis in Eastbourne, falling to a superb opponent in fifth-ranked Angelique Kerber. It seems that she has certainly found her winning ways again. Next up is Montreal on August 4, where she will look to continue her route through the rankings, standing presently at No. 13.
As for McIlroy, he has that pep in his step that is so familiar when he gets into the zone – a fast, steady pace that aims straight for the cup. Once again, he is being mentioned in the same breath as Tiger Woods and the great Jack Nicklaus. His next stop is at Firestone and the Bridgestone Invitational, where he has a chance to reclaim the No. 1 player ranking in the world if he is victorious.
McIlroy said after his British Open win that he wants “to be the guy that goes on and wins majors, and wins majors regularly, wins tournaments. I’d love to be in that position.” He most definitely has put himself in the conversation, following in the footsteps of two of golf’s greatest – Woods and Nicklaus – who are the only players ever to win three of the four major tournaments at a younger age.
In the end, love may or may not conquer all, and maybe sometimes Cupid’s arrow goes awry – nobody is perfect, after all. It clearly was not in the cards for Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki to fall in love and get married, but if their recent performance is any indication, they might just be okay with that. They have a love for the game and they are proving that that love is good enough, at least for now.
Commentary by Justin Williams