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Bad sports, good sports: Was relationship pressure too much for Rory McIlroy?

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Rory McIlroy made news in a couple of different ways this week. First, he broke up with his longtime girlfriend and recent fiancé, tennis star Carolyn Wozniacki. He followed that up by winning the BMW PGA Championship this weekend. Whether or not these events were related has been quite the topic of conversation.

McIlroy has been long hailed as the next great one in golf. He is just 25 years old, and he has 12 professional wins, including two majors (2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship). Six of those wins happened in 2012. Headed into the 2013 season, with Tiger Woods still struggling, many people expected McIlroy to take over as the best player in the world. Just as the season was starting, he signed a big deal with Nike to promote and use their equipment. He followed that with a terrible start to his season, with disappointing showing after disappointing showing. This was on the heels of increased attention having been given to his relationship with Caroline Wozniacki. He started dating the Danish tennis star in late 2011, and by the end of 2012, it was clear the relationship had gotten serious. I remember reading about this at the time, and being amused by various writers suggesting that dating a high profile athlete was likely to cause major distractions for McIlroy, possibly derailing him from his path toward greatness.  This seemed pretty ridiculous to me.

Once his 2013 season went off the rails, I had to wonder if maybe there was something to the speculation. Certainly, the change of equipment factored into his poor play and likely contributed to the distraction level quite a bit on its own. Sure, if he were dating some random girl, the media attention to the relationship would have been far more understated, but it seems like a world-class athlete should already be built in such a way as to be able to filter out most distractions. That said, there are an awful lot of very talented athletes out there, and I guess that the thing that separates the great athletes from the true superstars might just be that little edge in concentration. Enough distraction may turn the great into the good at that level. Other than a very late season win in Dubai, his 2013 season certainly made it hard to argue with this theory.

On the final day of 2013, McIlroy proposed to Wozniacki and she accepted. Until this week, his 2014 season was winless. Early last week, the couple mailed out invitations to their wedding. Within days, McIlroy called off the event, breaking up with his fiancé. Amazingly, he then went out and won the BMW this weekend in Surrey, England. Someone on the anti-relationship side might say that it makes perfect sense that he won after ending the relationship that caused his problems in the first place. The other side would likely reply that if the issue was distraction, what could possibly cause a bigger distraction for someone than having this story play out in public this week? I guess you could say that a huge weight was lifted off of his shoulders, freeing him up to play his game, but that seems like a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, we’ll see how the rest of the year plays out. If McIlroy realizes his potential and becomes the golfer everyone expected last year, then there may be something to this theory.

Good sports, continued:

2) The Seattle Seahawks drafted Garrett Scott in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft, only to find out that he has a heart condition that will prevent him from ever playing for the team. The issue was found during his physical. In a very cool move, the team still signed him to a contract before releasing him, allowing him to collect over $500,000 that will help him with his medical bills.

3) Not only were Houston Astros prospect Conrad Gregor’s parents in attendance to watch him hit his first professional home run in Iowa on Saturday, but his father actually caught the ball after it cleared the outfield wall. That’s cool.

Bad sports:

1) The Austin Peay football team (cheer: “Let’s Go Peay!”) might want to stay away from their field for a while. Check out the giant sinkhole that appeared in it last week.

2) A racehorse had to be put down at Churchill Downs last week after a crazy incident that was caused by a new sound system that the track recently installed. The blaring sound of the starting signal came through the sound system as the horse was walking through the paddock. Never Tell Lynda reared at the sound and then fell and hit her head. The injuries were so severe that she had to be euthanized.

3) T.J. Ward was one of the prizes of this year’s NFL free agency period. The Denver Broncos signed the former Cleveland Browns safety to a big contract back in March. This week, a warrant was issued for his arrest in Denver after an incident at a strip club. I assume that is not what the Broncos were expecting when they signed him.

4) Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke went out to make a pitching change in the seventh inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night. His signal to the bullpen revealed a bit of a problem though…there was no one warming up. He was forced to bring in a pitcher, Will Smith (no relation), who had not yet thrown a pitch in the bullpen. The decidedly un-warm pitcher promptly gave up three runs and the Brewers lost the game, 5-4.

5) Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson was removed from Friday’s game by manager Fredi Gonzalez after he threw a tantrum in the tunnel following a strikeout in the second inning.

6) Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the U.S. National soccer team, shocked the sports community by leaving star forward Landon Donovan off of the roster for the upcoming World Cup tournament, much to the player’s displeasure. A couple days later, Donovan made his point by scoring two goals for the Los Angeles Galaxy, setting the MLS all-time record for goals scored.

7) Miguel Olivo, a veteran catcher currently playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, apparently bit off part of teammate Alex Guerrero’s ear during a fight in the dugout on Tuesday. Mike Tyson must be proud.

8) The jersey that Mark Sanchez wore when committing the infamous “butt-fumble” back in 2012 was up for sale on an NFL auctions website last week. A Jets fan bought the jersey for over $800, saying he bought it to keep it out of the hands of others who might use it to further ridicule Sanchez. Yeah, as if someone would actually need the actual jersey to do that. This is a Bad Sports story because of the dope who spent all that money, but it really made the list just so I could again share one of the greatest videos ever. Have at it.

Bad sports, good sports appears early each week

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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One Response to “Bad sports, good sports: Was relationship pressure too much for Rory McIlroy?”

  1. Alan, I have to agree with you on Bad Sports #6. I would have liked to see Donovan on the USMNT roster for one more World Cup. I realize that advancing age does bring concerns over condition and endurance … but it also brings a great deal of experience, including international experience – not just in previous World Cups, Gold Cups, and international friendlies, but also on the rosters of Premier League and Bundesliga teams.

    Even if he didn’t start, he would have been a great sub to send in as the match developed.

    And what’s with Klinsman’s son, and that tweet of his after Elder Klinsman announced the roster?

    I have seen Donovan play before, and will look forward to it again this summer, when the Galaxy host Man U … For me, it has always been a treat to watch Landon Donovan play, and it always will be,

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