ATLANTA – An exhausted Rory McIlroy arrived at East Lake Golf Club Thursday morning to begin preparations for his title defense in the Tour Championship and his run at an unprecedented third FedEx Cup.
But a little ball of joy name Poppy was the only thing on his mind.
McIlroy and wife, Erica, welcomed Poppy Kennedy McIlroy into the world at 12:15 p.m. ET Monday in Jupiter, Florida.
“It’s amazing,” McIlroy said at East Lake Golf Club. “You see other people having kids and babies, and you’ll say congratulations and you’re happy for them, but you don’t really know how it feels.
“Now that I do, anyone that I know that has a child, there’s so much more admiration for the mother, what they go through, and it’s just amazing. You feel like you get to know your baby while she’s still in her mother’s belly, but to go from not having met this person to having unconditional love for them from one minute to the next, there’s nothing like it in the world.
“It’s probably the best part of being a human being, and I’m glad that I got to experience it.”
As for the experience of leaving his daughter and wife for the first time, that he could have done without.
“I didn’t want to leave,” he said. “It was just hard to leave, really hard to leave. But at the end of the day life doesn’t stop. Life moves on. I know that Erica is surrounded by her family, and my mom and dad are just around the corner, so she’s got all the help she needs, so I felt a little more comfortable being able to go.
“We got her home yesterday. It’s nice in the hospital. You’ve got so much help and all the nurses are around and they did a phenomenal job. You don’t appreciate that side of things, as well. And then you’re handed your child and they’re like, ‘See you later,’ and they don’t come with an instruction manual.
“Look, every parent has to sort of go through it, and we’re going through it.”
McIlroy said he and Erica went through names of flowers when they talked about naming their first child. Once Poppy came up, it stuck.
“We really liked it,” McIlroy said. “I have a cousin of mine; her daughter is named Poppy. We know a few other Poppies. And we just really love the name. We were sort of trying to go through a lot of the flower names, Rose, Iris, all those things.
“My mom is a Rosie, so we were sort of like, ‘That might (not) work.’ We know Alex Noren has an Iris. Shane Lowry has an Iris. We wanted to go with something that was pretty unique, maybe more common back where I’m from, but we landed on Poppy and we loved it.”
As for his golf, McIlroy will try to break out of a poor stretch since golf returned in June after a 13-week break due to COVID-19. Before the virus spread across the globe, McIlroy had top-5 finishes in seven consecutive tournaments, including a victory in the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. Since the return, he has posted zero top-10s in eight starts.
With the staggered scoring format this week, McIlroy will start seven shots behind leader Dustin Johnson in Friday’s first round. Last year, when he joined Tiger Woods as the only two-time winners of the FedEx Cup, he started five shots back.
“It’s been hard to think about golf the last few days just because I’ve been so focused on making sure that everything is OK at home,” said McIlroy, who took to the range around 1 p.m. ET. “I mean, maybe this is what I needed, just for everything to happen and go well.
“I haven’t played my best since coming back out since sort of post-COVID. But yeah, maybe things just will fall into place. It’s already been the best week of my life, and this would obviously just be the icing on the cake.”