Rory McIlroy admits impending fatherhood has disrupted his focus on the course

Rory McIlroy has made no secret over the last few months that he has been struggling to retain his focus. However, what he did keep secret was what he believes to be one of the principle factors for “walking around like a zombie’. McIlroy is about to become a father.

It is understood that Erica could give birth to a baby girl, the couple’s first child, as soon as Monday. If it goes to plan then McIlroy may well take his place in the Tour Championship on Friday, where he would be defending the FedEx Cup and trying to win the $15m bounty again. 

But if the McIlroys have to wait, then he will gladly skip the PGA Tour’s seasonal finale. “I’m going to play in many more Tour Championships, and it’s only going to be the birth of your first child once,” he said. “That trumps anything else.”

McIlroy closed out with a 71 for a one-over total in the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields in Illinois on Sunday and then immediately flew back to Jupiter, their hometown in Florida. The 31-year-old was only three back off the pace when he set out but with five bogeys and four birdies he was never going to make enough inroads to raise a challenge. 

In the event, Jon Rahm beat Dustin Johnson in a play-off in hugely dramatic scenes. Rahm, the Spanish world No 2, looked to have won in regulation when posting a 64 for a four-under total. But Johnson, the world no 1, holed an outrageous 43-footer, that took at least three notable breaks, to take it to extra holes. 

Even the man who hates fuss felt obliged to celebrate and his prolonged fist pump to non-existent galleries said it all.

But then Rahm made that ridiculous moment seem almost mundane when holing from 65 feet on the first extra hole. It handed Rahm the title and the $1.7m prize, but crucially Johnson is the player that starts on 10-under in the Tour Championship on Friday, with Rahm on eight-under in the bizarrely weighted finale.  If he is there, McIlroy will begin on three-under following his tie for 12th.

At least it was another top 20, because McIlroy went into the penultimate play-off with only one other top 20 in an eight -event period during which he fell from world No 1 to fourth in the rankings. “I think from the get-go my mind has been wandering the last few weeks, and now you guys sort of know the reason why,”  McIlroy said.

The Northern Irishman began his final round when Tiger Woods was tapping in on the 18th, which gives an idea of how the 15-time major-winner has performed. The 44-year-old saved the best until last, but still his 71 meant he had recorded four over par rounds in a tournament for the first time in 10 years.

Woods’s 11-over total left him outside the top 50 and way off what was needed to see him qualify in the top 30 in the FedEx standings who went forward to Atlanta. Instead, Woods will now have a fortnight to fix his faults before the US Open, the year’s second major, takes place at Winged Foot. At least he feels like he has enjoyed/endured an appropriate test. 

“This golf course was basically a US Open, with the rough being as high as it is and fairways a little bit narrow,” Woods said. “Look at the scores and I don’t think that we’ve seen scores like this in a non-major in a very long time. This was a great ramp-up for me for the US Open. 

“I wish I was playing next week, but I’ve got a couple weeks off.  I certainly haven’t putted as well as I would have liked, and with the scores being as low as they have been, I just haven’t been able to shoot the low scores like I needed to.’

Woods also admitted that his back “ached every day”, which is hardly what his fans want to hear with not only the US Open approaching, but also the Masters in November.

On the European Tour, Rasmus Hojgaard completed a Tigeresque achievement when winning his second title at the age of 19. The Dane moved into the world’s top 70 with his play-off win in the ISPS Handa UK Championship at The Belfry. That ranking only gives an inkling of Hojgaard’s remarkable rise. 

His identical twin, Nicolai, is also a Tour professional, who finished second in last year’s Dutch Open. Yet for now, Rasmus has stolen the fraternal march, adding the Belfry silverware to the Mauritius Open he won last December. Hojgaard’s form in the UK Swing verged on the ridiculous. 

In the six events, he played four, recorded four top sixes, including a third, a second and, finally a first. Hojgaard has barged his way into the US Open and, even though this will be his first major, anyone who underestimates his challenge has not been watching. 

Certainly, South Africa’s Justin Walters will testify to the teenager’s competitive spirit, after being beaten on the second extra hole, as will Martin Kaymer, the former world No 1, who finished third. “It’s hard to describe,” the rookie, who has won twice in his first 12 Tour starts, said. “It’s obviously an amazing feeling to get the wins. They’ve happened really quick. I’m kind of lost for words right now but it is incredible.”

It was a great day for Denmark golf as on the Ladies European Tour Emily Kristine Pedersen also won her second title. The 24-year-old from Copenhagen holed an 80-footer for an eagle on the 18th at Beroun Golf Club to prevail by four over Austria’s Christine Wolf at the Tipsport Czech Ladies Open.

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