There’s a lot that Rory McIlroy can learn from Tiger Woods in terms of what to do on the golf course, and of course there is a lot McIlroy can learn from Woods in terms of what not to do off of the course.
Woods, needless to say, made a mess of a seemingly perfect life in November 2009, and has been struggling to repair both his life and golf game ever since.
McIlroy has so far proven to be far more personable and open than Woods ever was. While Woods wouldn’t even hint at what his favorite food was, McIlroy is more than happy to tweet a picture of last night’s dinner out to his 1.45 million followers on Twitter.
That being said, when you are the world’s number one golfer and you completely open your life up to the fans and media, you have to realize that you’ve opened the floodgates and this is not simply a faucet that you can turn on and off whenever you feel like it.
When people have become accustomed to you letting them in on intimate details of your personal life, whether that be through Twitter or your openness at press conferences, when you then ask for privacy you are creating something of a double standard.
Although Woods can in many ways provide McIlroy with a road map of what not to do off of the golf course, there is one thing that McIlroy might be able to learn from Woods in terms of how he carries himself away from the course—the less people know about you and your private life, the easier things will be on the golf course.
For more than a decade Woods never had to answer questions about his personal life, business affairs or anything else not having to do with the game of golf. This was partially because the media always wanted to stay on Woods’ good side. After all, many of their jobs depended almost solely on Woods’ success and the popularity of the game. It was also partially because they already knew that Woods had created an impenetrable fortress between the golf course and his personal life.
The benefit of this for Woods was that for more than a decade he had little, if any, distractions to deal with when trying to win golf tournaments.
His relationships prior to getting married were kept very private. His marriage to Elin Nordegren was kept very private. His family life after the birth of his children was kept very quiet. Essentially no one knew exactly what Woods did when he was not out winning tournaments, and that is exactly the way Woods liked it.
This created an ideal situation for Woods. When he’d show up at Augusta, Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews or wherever else he happened to be playing, it was all about golf.
While Woods created a fortress between his personal and professional life from a very young age, McIlroy has erected nothing more than a screen fence between his life on and off the golf course.
Between McIlroy and his high profile girlfriend (tennis Star Caroline Wozniacki), fans can literally track their entire relationship through Twitter.
Did they spend the holidays together?
Where have they recently vacationed?
Did McIlroy travel with Wozniacki to Australia for the Australian Open?
It’s all on Twitter. Simply click one button to follow each of them and you will be allowed into at least a portion of their relationship and personal lives.
Many have seen this as a refreshing change from the closed books that Woods and many other superstar athletes have always been.
But, McIlroy’s open door policy could also create some unwanted distractions over the course of his career.
It is difficult enough being the number one ranked player in the world and trying to live up to the incredibly high expectations that everyone has now cast upon you. Add in the fact that the fans and media also know virtually everything about your personal life and you are hit with a two-fold challenge.
Instead of fielding questions only about golf, McIlroy has opened himself up to questions about his personal life including his relationship with Wozniacki.
If McIlroy had kept these aspects of his life private from the beginning, most of sports media would consider it at least somewhat off limits. The second McIlory opened the world up to his personal life and relationship with Wozniacki, he opened up this portion of his life to far more scrutiny.
Plain and simple, McIlroy has been laying the groundwork for a slew of distractions that he may wind up greatly regretting in the near future.
When you publicize your personal life like McIlroy and Wozniacki have, you cannot be surprised in the least when Wozniacki shows up in Australia apparently wearing a diamond ring on her hand and it makes headlines throughout the world.
When you post pictures of you and Wozniacki spending the holidays together, you have to expect that the media will press you on whether you are planning to get married, and if so, when.
But that is only part of the problem with McIlroy’s open door policy as it pertains to his personal life.
There are many aspects of anyone’s personal life that will inevitably hit some rough patches over the years.
Say for example that McIlroy and Wozniacki break up in early April. This is a difficult situation for any young man to deal with, but now instead of compartmentalizing various aspects of his life, McIlroy will wind up fielding questions from the media about his break-up with Wozniacki at Augusta rather than focusing solely on the task at hand, which would be winning the Masters.
So yes, McIlroy may be viewed as a breath of fresh air at the moment, but as the years go by, and his fame, the demands on his time and the inevitable pressure that comes along with being the world’s number one golfer continue to grow, McIlroy may wind up cursing the day that he let anyone in on his personal life.
Winning golf tournaments is difficult enough. Trying to win at both the game of life and the game of golf in front of the public eye may prove to be far more difficult than young Rory McIlroy realizes.