Feb
4
2014
Wozzilroy’s unforced error: walking inside the ropes during tourney rounds
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour
Wozniacki watches McIlroy from inside the ropes in China in 2011
Unlike the rule applied to every other WAG (wives and girlfriends) — with the exception of team events like the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup — tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki often walks inside the ropes with her now-fiancee Rory McIlroy. This hadn’t drawn too much attention until last week at the Dubai Desert Classic, particularly on Sunday when McIlroy was in contention.

Wozniacki ducked under the ropes on the par-5 10th, according to various reports, including this one from ESPN.com’s Bob Harig:

But McIlroy played the first nine holes without a birdie while Gallacher was struggling, allowing a slew of players back into the tournament.

Wozniacki met him inside the ropes at the 10th hole — a rather bizarre development to occur during the course of a sporting event, and she followed him for most of the tournament. He then bogeyed the par-5 hole, one of the easiest on the course.

McIlroy bounced back with a birdie on the 11th, but then posted two consecutive bogeys on nos. 12 and 13. He rolled in another birdie on no. 17, but it was already too late — even champion Stephen Gallacher played a flawless back nine, which included four birdies. While Gallacher shot a four-under 33 coming in to post even par for the day, McIlroy scraped by with a one-over 38 for a final-round, two-over 74, dropping him back to a tie for ninth.

Other reports describe scenes of Caroline chatting away with McIlroy throughout the day/tournament.

Now, I can’t say if this impacted his performance because she seems to appear inside the ropes all the time, but it has to be a distraction. I know it’s different, but as a reporter, there’s a golden rule — we don’t speak to the players…ever. Well, that is, unless the player initiates the conversation with us. Still, in such a scenario, especially when a player is in contention or struggling, you keep your distance. In other words, you do what you can so that they don’t even realize you’re inside the ropes.

It seems rather strange that Wozniacki isn’t cognizant that her actions are against the unspoken — and spoken — rules. After all, she’s a competitive tennis player. Can you imagine if Caroline was playing in a tennis tournament and Rory was given a chair next to hers and gave her pep talks in between sets? Uhh, I doubt that would fly.

Again, the whole thing is just kind of weird, but I understand if Caroline is trying to avoid autograph seekers. I just wonder if it’s possible for her to be more inconspicuous.

At the HSBC Champions last November in China, Paulina Gretzky, who is also a celebrity, walked with her fiancee Dustin Johnson in the final round — from outside the ropes. It wasn’t until he finished the 17th hole that security pulled her inside and away from the large crowds, so she could see him play the 18th and be there to congratulate him after he putted out.

To Paulina’s credit, she also kept her distance from Johnson, letting him focus on sealing the deal and abiding by proper etiquette. And she’s not even a professional athlete, but perhaps it helps that she’s the daughter of The Great One and understands competition is competition.

Meanwhile, we don’t even see skier Lindsey Vonn inside the ropes following her boyfriend Tiger Woods at PGA Tour events. Like the other significant others — with the exception of the Presidents Cup last fall, where it’s acceptable — Vonn watches from a golf cart or walks with the gallery.

Again, it’s not to say Wozniacki being inside the ropes cost McIlroy the tournament or affected his play in the slightest. The whole controversy also isn’t entirely Wozniacki’s fault because the European Tour officials (and apparently McIlroy) are fine with bending the rules for her, but if they do it for her, then they should allow all WAGs inside the ropes.

It’s already a circus — and I know that’s no thanks to the media sometimes, but believe it or not, we’re actually doing our jobs (seriously, it’s not all fun and games).

(Photo via Golf.com)