Rory McIlroy admits impending fatherhood has disrupted his focus on the course

Rory McIlroy will become a father for the first time any day now – Getty Images

Rory McIlroy has made no secret over the past few months that he has been struggling to retain his ­focus. Yet what he did keep secret was what he believes is one of the principle factors for “walking around like a zombie”. McIlroy is about to become a father.

It is understood that wife Erica could give birth to a baby girl, the couple’s first child, as soon as Monday. If it goes to plan then McIlroy may well take his place in the Tour Championship on Friday, where he would be defending the FedEx Cup and trying to win the $15 million (£11.2 million) bounty again.

But if the McIlroys have to wait then he will gladly skip the PGA Tour’s seasonal finale. “I’m going to play in many more Tour Championships, and it’s only going to be the birth of your first child once,” he said. “That trumps anything else.”

McIlroy was playing in the final round of the BMW Championship in Illinois and was due to fly back to Jupiter, their home town in Florida, on Sunday night.

The 31-year-old was only three back off the pace when he set out and just to be in contention seemed a success after his mediocre form since the PGA Tour resumed ­following lockdown.

McIlroy went into the penultimate play-off with only one top 30 in a seven-event period during which he fell from world No 1 to fourth in the rankings. “I think from the get-go my mind has been wandering the last few weeks, and now you guys sort of know the ­reason why,” McIlroy said.

The Northern Irishman was beginning his fourth round at Olympia Fields when Tiger Woods was tapping in on the 18th, which gives an idea of how the 15-time major winner has performed. The 44-year-old saved the best until last, but still his 71 meant that he had recorded four over par rounds in a tournament for the first time in 10 years.

Woods’s 11-over total left him outside the top 50 and way off what was needed to see him qualify in the top 30 in the FedEx standings who go forward to Atlanta. Instead, Woods will now have a fortnight to fix his faults before the US Open, the year’s second major, takes place at Winged Foot. At least he feels like he has enjoyed/endured an ­appropriate test.

“This golf course was basically a US Open, with the rough being as high as it is and fairways a little bit narrow,” Woods said. “Look at the scores and I don’t think that we’ve seen scores like this in a non-major in a very long time. This was a great ramp-up for me for the US Open.

“I wish I was playing next week, but I’ve got a couple weeks off. I certainly haven’t putted as well as I would have liked, and with the scores being as low as they have been, I just haven’t been able to shoot the low scores I needed.”

Woods also admitted that his back “ached every day”, which is hardly what his fans want to hear with not only the US Open ­approaching, but also the Masters in November.

On the European Tour, Rasmus Hojgaard completed a Tigeresque achievement when winning his second title at the age of 19. The Dane moved into the world’s top 70 with his play-off win in the ISPS Handa UK Championship at The Belfry. That ranking only tells an inkling of Hojgaard’s remarkable rise.

His identical twin, Nicolai, is also a Tour professional, who finished second in last year’s Dutch Open. But for now, Rasmus has stolen the fraternal march, adding to his Mauritius Open title he won last December. Hojgaard’s form during the UK Swing has verged on the ridiculous.

In the six events, he played four, recorded four top-six finishes, ­including a third, a second and now a first.

Hojgaard has barged his way into the US Open and, even though this will be his first major, anyone who underestimates his challenge has not been watching. Certainly, South Africa’s Justin Walters will testify to the teenager’s competitive spirit, after being beaten on the ­second extra hole, as will Martin Kaymer, the former world No 1, who finished third.

“It’s hard to describe,” the rookie, who has won twice in his first 12 Tour starts, said. “It’s obviously an amazing feeling to get the wins. They’ve happened really quick. I’m kind of lost for words right now, but it is incredible.”

It was a great day for Danish golf as on the Ladies European Tour Emily Kristine Pedersen also won her second title. The 24-year-old from Copenhagen holed an 80-foot putt for an eagle on the 18th at ­Beroun Golf Club to prevail by four over Austria’s Christine Wolf at the Tipsport Czech Ladies Open.

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