Rory McIlroy and his girlfriend of six months, Erica Stoll, have been photographed publicly for the first time, walking hand-in-hand around the course at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, the Daily Mail is reporting.
“I am very happy. We haven’t really been putting it out there.”
McIlroy’s dating life has been the subject of media scrutiny since his very public, and rather embarrassing, breakup with his former fiancée, Caroline Wozniacki, last year. With the wedding invitations already sent, McIlroy called off the wedding and ended the relationship — with a phone call — after deciding he wasn’t ready for marriage.
“There is no right way to end a relationship that has been so important to two people. The problem is mine. The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realise that I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails. I wish Caroline all the happiness she deserves and thank her for the great times we’ve had.”
For her part, Caroline handled her breakup with McIlroy — publicly, anyway — with grace and dignity.
“Obviously you’re not prepared for something like this and it came as a bit of a shock. The only thing I really have to say is to thank everybody for their support and sweet messages… I just have to move on.”
Since then, the golfer appears to have bounced back in his personal life. He and Stoll, who have been “good friends” since 2012, according to Hello Magazine, have been hanging out in Florida whenever he gets a chance.
“She is from America, which is why I like to spend time in Palm Beach. The past six or seven months have been really nice. That part of my life is going great. If everything off the golf course is good, it allows you to be better on it as well.”
Stoll bears a “striking resemblance” to McIlroy’s former love, according to the Daily Mail — both women are platinum blonde. But unlike professional tennis player Wozniacki, Stoll works behind the scenes, as an employee of the Professional Golf Association.
In fact, it was Stoll’s job in the PGA that led to the couple’s adorable “meet-cute” story. Back at the 2012 Ryder Cup, McIlroy overslept, almost missing the deadline to get to the course, and in the process dashing the hopes of the European team. Fortunately, Stoll came to the rescue, and got McIlroy to the course — under police escort — just in the nick of time.
Despite their happiness off the course, McIlroy and Stoll’s relationship doesn’t seem to have boded well for Rory’s performance on the course: he failed to make the cut for this year’s Irish Open.
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images / Mark Runnacles]