McIlroy has fresh outlook since becoming a father
Rory McIlroy did not want to leave his wife and new baby daughter at home in Florida but, now that he has, the Northern Irishman is hoping that the so-called “Nappy Factor” helps him defend the FedEx Cup successfully and so again pick up the outrageous $15 million (£11.3 million) bounty.
McIlroy announced on social media yesterday that Erica had given birth to the couple’s first child on Monday. Under a picture of Poppy clutching his little finger, McIlroy tweeted: “Poppy Kennedy McIlroy, born August 31, 12.15pm. She is the absolute love of our lives. Mother and baby are doing great.”
As the well-wishes flooded in, the 31-year-old was already on his private plane to Atlanta. “I didn’t want to leave,” he said, when arriving at East Lake. “I was supposed to fly at 8am and as the airport is close I was going to leave at 7.30am. I ended up not leaving until 8am.
“It was just so hard to leave. But I know that Erica is surrounded by her family, and that my parents are around the corner, so she has all the help she needs. So, I felt a little more comfortable being able to go.”
There are many precedents for players who have just become firsttime fathers seeing an uptick in their form. Danny Willett won the 2016 Masters the week after his first child was born and, with the US Open taking place in two weeks, Poppy’s timing could be perfect.
“If you look at fathers in all different sports, golf, tennis, it’s not a new lease of life, but a different perspective,” McIlroy said. “The trials and tribulations of what goes on out on the course don’t really seem to matter that much, so you can let it just slide off you.
“You know this is important, it’s your career, but you get to go home to your family. I mean, if I can’t be content and happy right now, I don’t think I’ll ever be. It’s awesome. It’s the best part of life. With everything that’s happened to me on and off the course, I have to pinch myself and ask, ‘Why me? Why am I so lucky?’ ”
Certainly, McIlroy is fortunate that this Tour Championship is taking place a day later than normal, with a Monday finish to mark Labor Day in the US. That extra 24 hours could have been crucial in him playing or not.
It will be intriguing to see if he can replicate his 2019 performance, although it is a more challenging task because he is further down in the FedEx standings after a mediocre run that has featured just two top 20s in his eight events since the PGA Tour’s resumption.
The 30-man field is handicapped, with points leader Dustin Johnson beginning on 10 under, Jon Rahm in second on eight under, and then a sliding scale to the players in positions 26-30 on level par. McIlroy will tee off on three under, two strokes worse than he began 12 months ago.
Yet McIlroy likes the course and as he freewheels he could be a contender, especially as he has admitted to feeling distracted in the past few months. “I was so focused on making sure that everything was OK at home,” he said. “So, maybe things now will fall into place. It’s already been the best week of my life and this would obviously just be the icing on the cake.”
Hands on: Rory McIlroy posted this image on social media of himself and his daughter