Rory McIlroy's Breakup Just Another Step for Young Star as He Grows Up

Mike DudurichContributor IMay 22, 2014

Rory McIlroy rebounded well from his relationship breakup in the first round of the BMW Championship.
Rory McIlroy rebounded well from his relationship breakup in the first round of the BMW Championship.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy finds himself in a position occupied by many before him and many who will follow him.

He's suffering through the dark days in the immediate aftermath of a relationship breakup.

The difference in McIlroy's case is that his breakup, just like the dating and engagement, was done in the glare of the public spotlight. He and Caroline Wozniacki share broken hearts not only with each other but also will all those who have followed the saga through social media.

McIlroy's recent history with change has not been particularly good, causing a quick reaction projecting gloom and doom for the 25-year-old Northern Irishman.

And there's no denying that after reaching the pinnacle of the golf world in 2012, a combination of changes rendered him a shell of that No. 1 ranking in the world in 2013. He signed a multiyear, $250 million contract with Nike, which gave him a bag full of new clubs.

Then, there was his exodus from the management stable of the United Kingdom's most famous agent, Chubby Chandler. And the icing on the cake was the very public, on-again, off-again relationship with Wozniacki.

Admittedly, that's a lot for a 24-year-old. But we're talking about one of the most talented young golfers in the world, one who has already won a pair of major championships.

I think we're talking about life lessons here. Having girlfriends, breaking up with girlfriends, making decisions that will affect your life and the lives of those around you—all of those things take place as we go through life.

For us, those things have happened in the quiet of our personal lives. McIlroy's been doing it in the public eye.

At 25, however, now is the time for McIlroy to learn to separate his on-course game from his off-course game.

Few players on the PGA Tour live storybook lives. They deal with issues like everyone else in as quiet a manner as possible.

There were definitely moments for McIlroy on Thursday.
There were definitely moments for McIlroy on Thursday.David Cannon/Getty Images

Unfortunately for McIlroy, stardom at a young age and talent that seems immense has taken away his ability to do many things quietly.

But I believe there's reason to be optimistic that he'll react better to this most recent bump in the road of life.

McIlroy's game.

The kid hasn't won this year, but he has put up top 10s in each of his last four starts. He was, and most likely still will be, one of the favorites in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in a few weeks.

And that's the sort of thing he has to use to replace the sadness that dominates his existence this week. McIlroy seemed to be inching back toward that player of 2012, and it would be a shame if he suffered a meltdown and didn't continue onward and upward.

During his emotional press conference Wednesday at the BMW Championship, he confirmed the breakup and answered questions about it. It wasn't easy, certainly, but he didn't shy away from anything.

The New York Daily News quoted him as saying, "Look, I'm no different than anyone else. Everyone has been through breakups, and it’s obviously very, very difficult. But look, I'm here to try and concentrate on this week and answer questions about golf, and that's what I’m going to do."

That seems to be a much more mature approach to the situation than any of the reactions we saw him make to anything in his disastrous 2013.

He honored his commitment this week to play in the BMW Championship and, for at least one round, backed up his words of Wednesday with some strong play.

On a day that was stop-and-go because of inclement weather, McIlroy put together a four-under-par round of 68, which puts him in the top 10. Sitting around during weather delays with things on your mind could make for difficulty when you get back on the course.

But McIlroy seemed to be able to compartmentalize things just fine Thursday.

McIlroy's short-term future will be more of a mental test than a physical one. His game is in good shape. If he can continue to gain mental strength, as is normal for a young man as he goes through his 20s, he'll learn to keep all of those distractions outside the ropes.

At least until the next girlfriend and the next breakup.