Rory McIlroy refuses to answer questions about his divorce from wife Erica Stoll as he faces the media for the first time since announcement

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  • READ MORE: Glum Rory McIlroy breaks cover for practice round at Valhalla
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  • READ MORE: ‘No-one saw it coming’: Sources say split came out of the blue 

Rory McIlroy sat behind a microphone at Valhalla on Wednesday and spared just six words to address the curiosities that have accompanied his presence at the US PGA Championship.

Naturally, the elephant in the tent was a subject that is simultaneously no one else’s business and also quite relevant in a sport where state of mind is worth more than any club in the bag.

For 24 hours, the detail that had crept out via court papers on Tuesday, which is to say McIlroy’s divorce from his wife of seven years, has provoked the question of whether personal turmoil will impact on a professional mission to win his first major in 10 years.


Getting such an enquiry to him was effectively killed off at the onset, with a moderator greeting his arrival by reminding the 50 or so present that ‘he will not be making any additional comments on his private life’. 

The closest anyone got to the fringes of that discussion was to ask how he was doing.

Rory McIlroy faced the media but refused to answer questions about his divorce from his wife

Rory McIlroy faced the media but refused to answer questions about his divorce from his wife

McIlroy sat with his head bowed as the press officer told media not to ask personal questions

McIlroy sat with his head bowed as the press officer told media not to ask personal questions

PGA Tour star McIlroy filed for divorce from wife Stoll (pictured right) in Florida on Monday

PGA Tour star McIlroy filed for divorce from wife Stoll (pictured right) in Florida on Monday

Spotting the subtext a mile off, all McIlroy would only say: ‘I’m ready to play this week.’ Before long he left, having sat for a total of seven questions spanning eight minutes.

The proof of his sentiment will come in instalments from Thursday, when he tees off for his first round at 8.15am local time. 

Already there is the suspicion that for all the noise in his name and the trauma at home, McIlroy is finding serenity and speed on the course.

In winning his second title in two starts at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday, he delivered a final round that offered reminders of the killer instinct that was once a more regular sight. 

With his driver in particular he has been immense since an underwhelming performance at the Masters and a sweet spot has been found in his wedge game too, opening the possibility of a battle royale with world No 1 Scottie Scheffler.

McIlroy and Stoll got together after his split from Caroline Wozniacki in 2014 (pictured together in 2015 in Dubai)

McIlroy and Stoll got together after his split from Caroline Wozniacki in 2014 (pictured together in 2015 in Dubai)

The Northern Irishman and Stoll tied the knot in 2017 (pictured at the 2023 Ryder Cup)

The Northern Irishman and Stoll tied the knot in 2017 (pictured at the 2023 Ryder Cup)

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Rory McIlroy fans note eerie parallel between Erica Stoll divorce and Caroline Wozniacki breakup in 2014

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‘I think it’s all about confidence and momentum and I have a lot of confidence and quite a bit of momentum coming into this week,’ McIlroy said.

The fact Scheffler is returning to the course a week after the birth of his first child has raised the thought that the most formidable force in golf could be distracted by a different kind of family distraction. 

That might be so, but it could just be the levelling this playing field needed when you consider Scheffler’s past five results read: won, won, second, won, won. That included his second Masters title, of course.

If there is a third point of fascination here, it is Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, who like Scheffler and McIlroy is coming in off a win from the LIV event in Singapore. 

McIlroy was back out on the course on Wednesday for a final practice round at Valhalla

McIlroy was back out on the course on Wednesday for a final practice round at Valhalla 

The Northern Irishman signed autographs for fans despite the turmoil in his personal life

The Northern Irishman signed autographs for fans despite the turmoil in his personal life

McIlroy was spotted with his business manager, Sean O'Flaherty, on Wednesday at practice

McIlroy was spotted with his business manager, Sean O’Flaherty, on Wednesday at practice

McIlroy did flash a wide smile at one point in his Wednesday practice  round, on the 12th hole

McIlroy did flash a wide smile at one point in his Wednesday practice  round, on the 12th hole

It is no great surprise that the five-time major winner joins Scheffler and McIlroy among the three strongest favorites to succeed on a 7,600-yard course that has been softened by heavy rain and will be ideal for such big hitters. 

Ludvig Aberg, the 24-year-old phenomenon and Masters runner-up, could also be a factor, though he has struggled with a knee injury lately.

A decade ago, it was McIlroy who was seen as golf’s bright young thing, and never more so than when he won his fourth major around this track aged 25, spawning thoughts that he would run riot in this sport. 

That has occurred at Tour level but not where it matters most, so it is perhaps a worry for his rivals that he has found rhythm and confidence in his game at a point when other areas of his life are trickier.

The couple share a three-year-old daughter Poppy (pictured in 2021) who was born in 2020

The couple share a three-year-old daughter Poppy, who was born in 2020 (Erica and Poppy pictured in 2021)

Erica was on McIlroy's bag for the Masters Par-3 event with their daughter Poppy in 2023

Erica was on McIlroy’s bag for the Masters Par-3 event with their daughter Poppy in 2023

McIlroy answered a few questions about golf but refused to divulge info about his private life

McIlroy answered a few questions about golf but refused to divulge info about his private life

McIlroy was the quickest of all golfers through the media center on Wednesday afternoon

McIlroy was the quickest of all golfers through the media center on Wednesday afternoon

While he refused to discuss those challenges on Wednesday, he was far more forthright on golf’s confused politics.

Following the resignation of his ally Jimmy Dunne from the PGA Tour’s merger talks with Saudi Arabia, and Dunne’s claim that ‘no meaningful progress’ had been made in negotiations, McIlroy was downbeat in his hopes for a unified game. 

He said: ‘I would say my confidence level on something getting done before last week was as low as it had been and then with this news of Jimmy resigning, it’s concerning.’

He has long been able to override those concerns with solid play. It remains to be seen how he rides out other thoughts this week.