Getting pestered for autographs and photographs when you sit at the bar in TGI Friday’s on the outskirts of Akron might be a pain, but for Rory McIlroy it’s perferrable to peering out into the night at the security guards patrolling his Moneyreagh home near Belfast.
Life has changed utterly for the 22-year old from Holywood since he bounced back spectacularly from his final round implosion at the Masters four months ago, winning the US Open by eight strokes to leap into the celebrity stratosphere not just as a golfer but as a personality.
McIlroy’s life away from the golf course was becoming increasingly more stressful before that iconic victory on the outskirts of Washington DC just seven weeks ago.
But following his whirlwind romance with the Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki and subsequent break-up with his childhood sweetheart Holly Sweeney the week before the Open, he’s no longer able to go about his business at home like any other youngster from north County Down.
Mobbed wherever he goes, he painted a disturbing picture of life at his €2.3 million, 14-acre home that goes a long way towards explaining his decision to pack his bags and escape to Florida for a quieter life on the PGA Tour next season.
“It is tough and definitely a lot tougher than it was three months ago,” McIlroy said of his new life last weekend. “There have been people driving up the driveway at home, which isn’t very nice, but as I said the other day, it is something I am just going to have to deal with.
“It definitely has a little bit to do with my decision to base myself in America next year. I have had security guards at my house every night since I won the US Open, patrolling around the area. It is something that I just had to put in place, I’m afraid.
“It’s tough but it is just the world we live in unfortunately. If you’re in the position we’re in, you’re so public.”
McIlroy isn’t the only young golf star who has discovered that being a celebrity away from the golf course is infinitey more demanding that being one on it.
Defending US PGA champion Martin Kaymer was mobbed by fans at a Pro-Am in Germany two weeks ago and was so unnerved by the experience that he took time out before the traditional pro-am dinner to spend 15 minutes alone on his hotel balcony, gathering his thoughts.
“I ate bread and drank some milk or something and just watched into the trees and chilled a little bit because it was too much,” Kaymer said. “It’s not about winning majors, it’s not about winning anything.
“People follow you home and take pictures of your house or your car or of your friends and they call your friends to get information about you. You just read those things or watch movies about it, but you don’t think it will happen to you.”
McIlroy has dreamt about becoming a major champion since he was a small boy but he admits that he was unprepared for what happened next.
With Wozniacki on his arm, he’s now a target for paparazzi worldwide and while playing golf keeps his mind off the tabloid whirl, he knows he’s just going to have to learn to live with the pressures.
He said: “Life has changed a lot but I don’t really think about it. Well, perhaps a little bit. There are moments when you think, what is happening here, what is going on, but it is always what I wanted to do.
“When you grow up and dream of being a professional golfer and dream of winning majors, all you really think about is the golf and playing in front of great crowds and on unbelievable golf courses and winning trophies.
“You never think about the other side of it and that is the side that takes a bit of getting used to. It is also something that you don’t really expect.
“It doesn’t really affect me when I’m playing golf. The five hours I’m on the course is my own time, it’s lovely as a bit of tranquillity if you like.”
One of the hardest things about leaving his 14-acre Moneyreagh pad will be abandoning his state-of-the-art practice ground and leaving his dogs Gus and Theo behind.
With his eye on an apartment in West Palm Beach, he said: “I practice quite a lot at the Bear’s Club when I’m over here so it would be nice to have that facility to practice at and it would be nice just to have somewhere to put all your stuff when you’re over here for three of four months.
“I’m not looking at anything aside from an apartment or something like that, nothing big.
“The dogs are at home yes. But they’re fine. Mum and dad are great with them and different people take them all the time so it’s no problem.
“We try not to put them in kennels but maybe once or twice a year we might have to. They don’t really spend much time with other dogs, it’s just the two of them, so it is actually nice for them to spend some time with other dogs in kennels.”
McIlroy would love to be just an ordinary Joe sometimes but he knows that that is now impossible following his meteoric rise to fame.
He said: “Sometimes it might be nice. When you are in restaurants and stuff like that when you’re eating dinner and people recognise you and want photographs and autographs and stuff like that, but it’s fine, it’s not a big deal.
“It’s when they stop asking you. That’s when you start to worry.”