Golf is a sport of dedication, commitment and skill, much the same as holding a stable relationship. It is often said that men can’t multi-task, and judging by how well the male golfing population handles relationships and their careers there is probably more than just an element of truth in it. Through this I am going to delve into the lives of two very different professional golfers to prove that, in fact, relationships are ruining golf.
In November 2009 the world was shocked at the discovery of Tiger Woods cheating on his wife with a formidable amount of mistresses. He was married to Elin Nordegren, a former Swedish model who had previously nannied for golfer Jesper Parnevik before meeting Woods at the British Open in 2001. Together they had two children: Sam Alexis (2007) and Charlie Axel (2009). On November 25, 2009, The National Enquirer published the story stating that Woods had been having an affair with New York City nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel; a claim she denied. Two days later, around 2:30 a.m. on November 27, Woods fled home and collided with a fire hydrant, a tree, and several hedges. On November 30, Woods announced that he would not be appearing at his own charity golf tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, nor any other tournaments in 2009, due to his injuries. In the days and months following Woods' admission of infidelity, several companies re-evaluated their relationships with him. Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and General Motors completely ended their sponsorship deals, while Gillette suspended advertising featuring Woods.
In February of 2010 Woods gave a televised statement, confronting the allegations thrown at him. He said, "I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish." It is thought that his first acts of deceit occurred just a few months after the birth of their son and second child, Charlie, in early 2009.
Woods turned professional in 1996 and won his first major championship (the Masters) in 1997. He later added thirteen more major titles, making him ranked third of all time. From the time of allegations, out of a possible twenty major championships Woods took part in sixteen, missing two cuts and only making the top ten six times. This is compared with taking part in fifty six out of a possible sixty majors leading up to this point, missing only two cuts and withdrawing from one. However, out of these, he won fourteen times and added a further fifteen top ten finishes. In the world championships in this period, out of a possible thirty three events, he played in thirty and won sixteen. Yes is it true that he has suffered from a few injuries, but all of which have been put down to stress which ultimately stemmed from, yes, you guessed it, his relationship. ‘The life and career of the world’s greatest golfer fell apart with the swing of a club’
Next on the relationship-ruined-his-golf roster is rising star and teenage sensation Rory McIlroy. He is a lot younger than Woods, capturing the heart of young aspiring female golfers and driving the game forward. However, his success story isn’t a cute and fluffy as it may appear to those who stand outside of the exclusive golfing bubble.
McIlroy started young, shooting through the amateur rankings, taking the gold’s as he went. At the age of 15, McIlroy was a member of Europe's winning 2004 Junior Ryder Cup team in Ohio. In July 2005, at age 16, McIlroy shot a new course record of 61 on the Dunluce links of Royal Portrush Golf Club. In 2006, he won the European Amateur at Biella Golf Club, near Milan, Italy. McIlroy made his first appearance in a European Tour event a few days after turning 16, when he took part in the 2005 British Masters. He made the cut on the European Tour for the first time at the 2007 Dubai Desert Classic, where he had to forego prize money of over €7,600 due to his amateur status. At the 2007 Open Championship, held at Carnoustie, McIlroy was awarded The Silver Medal as the leading amateur.
Everything seemed to be going well for the young star. He had won two majors (the US Open 2011 and PGA Championship 2012), had six other tournament wins and a further thirty four top ten finishes leading up to 2014. McIlroy proposed to Wozniacki just after midnight on New Year’s Day 2014, but abruptly ended the relationship just days after sending out wedding invitations in late May. Rory had started to go off the boil towards the end of 2013, where a prestigious website headlined “The Golf Blog: Rory McIlroy falls to 7 in World Rankings, says winning 2 majors this year would make up for horrible 2013 season”. In early February McIlroy had still not picked up the pace with the next headline highlighting his atrocious back nine to fall short. Again in March the young Irishman is seen to be faltering at the Honda Classic where he loses yet another tournament in the dying holes. McIlroy finished T8th in the Masters Championship, his highest finish for him in that tournament and a good week compared to his sub-par form from the previous months.
In May, the tides started to change for the struggling McIlroy. On the 21st Rory ended his engagement with Wozniacki, and won the BMW PGA Championship later that same week, being his first win on the European Tour since the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai in November of 2012! Later, in July, McIlroy carded a win in the Open Championship totaling making him the first European to win three different majors and joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as one of three golfers since the first Masters Tournament in 1934 to win three majors by the age of 25. After a week off following his Open victory, McIlroy won his first World Golf Championship event at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and returned to world number one. The following week, he won the PGA Championship at Valhalla for his fourth major, one shot ahead of runner-up Phil Mickelson.
So if you look at the bare facts, McIlroy went from playing some of the worst golf of his promising career to splitting with his girlfriend and immediately seeing an improvement. How can a man do this you say? His relationship had ruined his golf and luckily Rory noticed. It is perhaps a little bit too simple to say that one definitely caused the other but it is fair to say there is a clear link that a relationship detracts from the hard work and dedication needed to maintain being a top professional golfer.