McIl­roy has fresh out­look since be­com­ing a fa­ther

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Formula One - Golf Correspond­ent By James Cor­ri­gan

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

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