Rory McIlroy has developed blisters on his hands since he split up with his girlfriend of six years.

The blisters were caused by pounding balls on the practice range in the UAE, where the 21-year old world No 12 is preparing for the start of his fourth full season as a professional in next week’s Abu Dhabi Championship.

Caitlin McBride reported in Dublin’s Evening Herald on Monday that McIlroy and Holly Sweeney had decided to go their separate ways and the news was confirmed by sources close to the Ulsterman today:

The high profile pair began dating when he was just 16 and Holly was 14 in their native town of Holywood.

A source revealed that the pair called it quits because it simply wasn’t “working out”.

“He just felt things weren’t working out with all the time they spend apart and thought the fairest thing for them was to let it go,” the insider said.

In spite of being one of golf’s most promising talents with a multi-million euro income — he shunned the partying lifestyle, instead opting to spend his days off catching up with his parents or cozying up in his mansion with Holly.

McIlroy even famously stopped touring the US in order to stay based in Europe to be closer to his other half.

“Holly has another two years of uni’ and we have two dogs, a nice house and I love my life back in Ireland, back in Europe and I don’t ever want to give that up,” he said at the time.

Brainy beauty Holly managed to avoid the stereotypical WAG image by planning an independent career, and is currently studying for a degree in sports technology at the University of Ulster.

McIlroy spent the New Year in New York with Ulster rugby star Darren Cave and left Belfast for the Middle East yesterday, where he has been practising hard for the new season.

“First practice session of the year done! Made good progress in the first day so very happy! Not happy about the 3 blisters on my hands tho!,” McIlroy told his Twitter followers on Tuesday.

He added: “No tweeps I’m not gripping it too tight! I think blisters are inevitable when you haven’t gripped a golf club for 6 weeks!”

McIlroy will skip the Qatar Masters before reappearing alongside Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic.