Carefree Rory McIlroy is ‘running away’ from pressure of Erica Stoll split as he’s seen laughing ahead of PGA showdown

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JOKING around with pals on the golf course, Rory McIlroy didn’t appear like a man whose divorce had been confirmed just hours earlier. 

But according to psychologists, the Northern Irish star, 35, is “escaping to another world” as he seeks to avoid – and even use as motivation – the pressures of his shock split from Erica Stoll.

GettyRory McIlroy laughed and joked around on the golf course yesterday, just hours after his divorce was confirmed[/caption]

GettyHe’s splitting up with Erica Stoll, who he married at a celeb-filled bash in 2017[/caption]

Getty – ContributorRory and Erica back in 2018, one year after they tied the knot in Ireland[/caption]

Rory’s relationship with his wife of seven years has been described as “irretrievably broken” in court documents – no other reason for their split has been revealed.  

A spokesperson for the former world number one stressed it was “a difficult time” for the star and a golf source said the split came “out of the blue and no one saw it coming”.

Despite the difficulties in his private life, the four-time major champion is in peak form, having won the Wells Fargo Championship last weekend, and is considered a favourite to win the PGA Championship, which starts tomorrow in Kentucky.

The insider continued: “The timing is very odd with Rory about to take part in a tournament but perhaps he wanted to get things tied up before it started.

“Ironically, Rory is in some of the best form of his life so whatever has been going on behind the scenes has not affected him at all.

“He is on a hot streak so everything in the garden appeared to be rosy. But he will now be the focus of a lot of attention.”

Rory, who filed for divorce on Monday, appeared to be in a jovial mood yesterday while practising at Valhalla Golf Club – but according to experts his laughter and smiles could hide his true feelings. 

Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings tells The Sun: “I think it could be a coping mechanism, I don’t think he’s not taking marital problems seriously.

“I think he goes back into tournaments for comfort, that is his grounding in many ways.

“He’s among his peers in a territory he knows, so it’s comforting for him.

“It’s escaping to another world where he doesn’t have to think about the issues and can relax, he’s almost running away from it but not because he doesn’t care.

“Rory’s likely acting this way because it is all he has known since his mid-teens when his career took off and he may feel this is the only way to be himself and escape the pressures of life.”

Unlikely victory?

Notably, Rory’s last PGA Championship victory came in 2014, days after his infamous split from tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

And body language expert Judi James explains that “oddly, dramas like this can help a golfer” because they are forced to compartmentalise. 

She tells The Sun: “Instead of unfocused fears or worries about form that can be prompted by a few lousy shots or games, the challenge could be clear in terms of putting any marital drama to one side and re-aligning the thinking to the important job in hand. 

“It could create a state of determination and resilience that would re-set the body state to an even higher level of drive or achievement.

“Laughing and showing a smiling or even playful state can be part of that sense of determination to be resilient, so Rory might be using some counter-intuitive-looking body language displays.”

GettyThe star is tipped to win the PGA Championship despite his private life struggles[/caption]

PhotopressRory was just 18 months old when he received his first golf club[/caption]

Photopress BelfastThe Northern Irish youngster was the youngest member of Holywood Golf Club at seven[/caption]

‘Distorted lifestyle’

Rory – who is said to be worth £200million – was introduced to the sport at a very early age.

He was just 18 months old when he received his own golf club and became Holywood Golf Club’s youngest member at seven. 

It’s said the youngster, who grew up in Northern Ireland, would pester his father, Gerry, every day to take him to the course and play a few holes. 

By the age of 15, Rory joined the Irish Team at the European Boys’ Team Championship, which won the 2004 Junior Ryder Cup.

The following year, he became the youngster-ever winner of the West of Ireland Championship and the Irish Close Championship. 

Because they have missed out on normality they find it difficult, they have had a fast track into adulthood without the developmental process

Jo Hemmings

After continued success – including reaching the top spot of the World Amateur Golf Ranking – Rory turned professional in 2007.

In the following years, Rory would achieve vast fame and fortune. In 2011, at the age of 22, he became the youngest player to reach £8million in career earnings on the PGA Tour

His biggest wins include the 2011 US Open, the 2012 PGA Championship, 2014 Open Championship and 2014 PGA Championship. 

The impressive feat led him to become the third golfer – behind legendary stars Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus – to win four majors before the age of 25. 

Jo tells us: “Young sports stars tend to miss out on a whole chunk of growing up and all of the normal stuff experienced between their early teens and early 20s.

“Those are formative years for young people. It’s a fast acceleration through life that often gets dismissed. 

Rick HewittAt 14, Rory was the youngest ever winner of the Ulster Boys Championship[/caption]

XHe’s now reportedly worth around £200million[/caption]

“In their late teens they are surrounded by adults not people their own age, so they get this distorted lifestyle that makes it harder for them to settle down.

“Because they have missed out on normality they find it difficult, they have had a fast track into adulthood without the developmental process.”   

Like many stars, Rory suffered with inconsistent form after the pandemic and admitted his frustration in 2021, when he made seven top-ten finishes. 

“I need something, I need a spark, I need something and I just don’t seem to have it. Some days it’s good, some days it’s not,” he said.

Despite this, he remained confident of his abilities, stating he knew he was “capable of winning a lot of events on the PGA Tour and being the best player in the world”.

You can never get away from it. You can never detach yourself and try to come back to the real world

Rory McIlroy

Rory went onto win the Fed Ex Cup in 2022 – following victories in 2016 and 2019 – and has earned a staggering £69million from wins on the green. 

His most recent victory occured on Sunday, when he lifted the Wells Fargo Championship trophy.

The fortune has allowed him to amass an array of sports cars including a £271,000 Lamborghini, two Ferraris worth £300,000 and a £145,000 Range Rover.

Rory also splurged on an £7.6million Florida mansion, which boasted seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, a home cinema, recording studio and a giant swimming pool.

INSTAGRAM @ ianjamespoulterAmong Rory’s fleet of expensive sports cars was a Ferrari F12[/caption]

He also owns a Florida mansion worth £7.6million, which has a home cinema

‘Poor behaviour’

In his personal life, Rory had a string of failed romances before he started dating PGA worker Erica Stoll, whom he had been friends with since 2012.

Childhood sweetheart Holly Sweeney, whom he dated when he was 16 and she was 14, said “it killed me” when their romance came to an end in 2011.

She claimed he left her for Danish tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki, whom he proposed to in 2013 but split up with a year later just months after sending out wedding invites.

Rory would later confirm reports that he dumped the sportswoman in a three-minute phone call, adding: “There is no right way to end a relationship.”

I found it refreshing being with someone who was living a normal life rather than, ‘Oh! My jet is 30 minutes late’

Rory

Guest posting agency=

He later hinted that their popularity contributed to their break-up claiming that he previously hoped dating someone “in a similar position” to him would be “the obvious answer”.

“But it isn’t, because you can never get away from it. You can never detach yourself and try to come back to the real world,” Rory told the Independent. 

In 2014, he was linked to Meghan Markle after insiders claimed they looked “smitten” during a trip to Dublin and was pictured with a mystery blonde at a student house party at the University of St Andrews. 

Jo says “the pressure of earning a lot of money” while younger and concern about “not knowing how long it will last” often leads to stars being “reckless”.

Rory McIlroy’s career achievements

By Ian Tuckey

Rory McIlroy spent more than 100 weeks at World No1 – and has scooped four Majors and won 40 tournaments in all SO FAR.

Only all-time greats Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have matched his feat of winning one of the big four by the age of 25.

And after winning the 2011 US Open, the Northern Ireland ace added the PGA Championship the following year – adding the Open and PGA crowns in 2014.

Here’s a rundown on the glittering career of the 35-year-old, five-time Ryder Cup winner, who was also a strong critic of the rival Saudi-backed LIV tour:

2007 – topped the world amateur rankings aged 17.

Turned professional in September.

Became the youngest Affiliate Member in the history of The European Tour to earn a tour card.

2009 – reached the world top 50.

2010 – won his first PGA Tour title via the Quail Hollow Championship.

Made a winning Ryder Cup debut.

Became the youngest player to reach $10m earnings on the PGA Tour.

2011 – Famously blew a four-stroke lead on the final day of the Masters in May.

But won his first major the following month – the US Open.

Named Sports Person of the year by RTE – Ireland’s main broadcaster.

2012 – lifted the PGA Championship.

Named PGA Tour player of the year and picked up more Ryder Cup glory.

2013 – signed a huge sponsorship deal with Nike.

2014 – his best year to date, majors wise.

Won the Open at Royal Liverpool.

Then clinched back-to-back PGA crowns, beating Phil Mickelson by one stroke.

Named RTE Sports Person of the year for a second time.

Again helped Europe win the Ryder Cup.

2016 – Ended the season winning the Tour championship, putting him top of the FedEx Cup and landing him the $10m bonus pool.

Suffered Ryder Cup defeat.

2017 – failed to win all year.

But gained top 10 finishes at the Masters, The Open and 3 WGC events.

And with Nike largely withdrawing from the golf market, he landed an £80m endorsement deal with TaylorMade.

2018 – More Ryder Cup joy.

2020 Overtook Brooks Koepka to become World No1

2021 – A Ryder Cup loser.

2022 – runners-up at the Masters and finished third at the Open.

2023 – helped Europe thrash the USA 16.5-11.5 in the Ryder Cup.

2024 – struggled early in the season, finishing just joint-22nd in the Masters.

But then won two tournaments – the Zurich Classic for his 25th PGA title and the Wells Fargo Championship.

However, she adds: “Footballers get away with way more than athletes, tennis players or golfers and are not held to such a high standard of accountability. 

“Because football is a team sport it’s believed there could be a pack mentality and one person’s bad behaviour could influence the others negatively.

“Golf is considered an older person’s sport so it added to the surprise when Rory went from successful to falling into poor behaviour.”

Rory and childhood sweetheart Holly Sweeney, who he dated until 2011

The golfer struggled during a high-profile romance with Danish tennis pro Caroline WozniackiGetty Images – Getty

Craving ‘normal life’

These difficult times led to the romance with Erica, who became a source of stability, and he proposed in 2015. They welcomed daughter Polly in 2020.

Speaking about their relationship, Rory said: “I found it refreshing being with someone who was living a normal life rather than, ‘Oh! My jet is 30 minutes late.’

“I feel in such a good place now. I don’t feel Erica wants to change me in any way. I can be myself around her – there’s no bulls**t, no acting, no show.”

I feel sad for him, he’s tried to do it the right way with someone who would have grounded him and given emotional stability yet there is always the pull from his other life

Jo Hemmings

Jo added: “I am sure Rory wanted just that, to ground and anchor him, but with so many years without the typical experience of a man in his teens to late twenties, it can be harder for him to adapt to that.”

The couple married seven years ago, back in 2017, in a star-studded bash at Ashford Castle, in Ireland, with guests including Jamie Dornan, Ed Sheeran, Niall Horan, Stevie Wonder and Chris Martin.

Guest posting agency=

Rory petitioned for divorce on Monday and the court filing described the marriage as being “irretrievably broken”, which was listed as a reason behind the split.

It also revealed the couple had signed a prenuptial agreement that was said to be “valid and enforceable” – but it’s yet to be seen if that will be challenged.

Rory and Erica will co-parent their daughter Poppy, with it listed that they will have shared custody and arrange a timesharing schedule. 

Rory’s soon to be ex-wife Erica was said to have ‘grounded’ the golferSportsfile

AP:Associated PressThey married in 2017 and had one daughter, Polly, three years later[/caption]

Jo believes the golf pro’s current form may be attributable to him needing to focus on the sport because “golf is Rory’s life, passion and talent”.

She adds: “As his marriage began to fail he will have focused even more on his career as a comfort and an escape from his personal emotional turmoil.

“Again, he’s so used to that from such an early age and so understandably he is now on top form again. 

“I imagine he finds a lot of solace in that familiarity and that may in part have contributed to his marriage breakdown as his natural inclination would have been to ‘run away’ to that world when he needed it, and so reinforcing the issues of neglect or resentment that Erica may have felt.”

Rory will now return to focusing on his career, according to Jo, who says his success and troubles “serve as reminder of the difficulties of those who achieve fame and fortune at an early age”.

She added: “It’s easy to forget that Rory’s actually only 35, he’s at an age now where lots of men – whether they are famous celebs or sports stars – want to settle down.

“I feel sad for him, he’s tried to do it the right way with someone who would have grounded him and given emotional stability yet there is always the pull from his other life.

“Kids can go into things too young and when it’s such a great part of their life it’s hard for them to achieve a ‘normal’ life and they often struggle with it.”

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