‘NO ONE SAW IT COMING’: Rory McIlroy splits from wife Erica Stoll, hires lawyer who represented Tiger Woods to end his seven-year marriage

The decision of Rory McIlroy to divorce wife Erica Stoll ‘came out of the blue’, sources have indicated – with the golfer reportedly filing papers one day after he was pictured lifting a trophy with his wedding ring on his finger.

The 35-year-old PGA Tour ace had been snapped still wearing his wedding band on Sunday as he lifted the Wells Fargo Championship cup – and is said to have filed for the split 24 hours later in Florida’s Palm Beach County, where he lives.

His decision to break the marriage off just before a major golf tournament has echoes of his split from Caroline Wozniacki in 2014 just before the PGA Championship, which he went on to win.

It has prompted speculation he is hoping to shake off personal pressures to focus on his game.

And McIlroy is also following in the footsteps of fellow golfing divorcee Tiger Woods by hiring attorney Thomas Sasser to file his divorce papers. Sasser represented all-time great Woods when his wife divorced him in 2010.

Sources close to the sport say the split has taken the golfing world by surprise – adding that McIlroy’s recent form had not betrayed any difficulties behind the scenes.

It has been suggested that McIlroy wanted to make the move ahead of the 2024 PGA Championship kicking off tomorrow – at which he hopes to end a 10 year majors drought that has lasted since his win after splitting from Wozniacki.

One source told The Sun: ‘Their split comes right out of the blue and no one saw it coming. The timing is very odd with Rory about to take part in a tournament but perhaps he wanted to get things tied up before it started.

‘Ironically, Rory is in some of the best form of his life so whatever has been going on behind the scenes has not affected him at all.’

McIlroy – said to be worth £200million according to the Sunday Times Rich List with career earnings of nearly £69million – did not appear to be showing any signs of strain as he took to the green at Valhalla Golf Club for practice on Tuesday.

The four-time golf majors winner looked relaxed and happy alongside caddy Harry Diamond as he took to the driving range at the club in Louisville, Kentucky.

Diamond was McIlroy’s best man at his wedding to Stoll in 2017 – a celebrity-packed affair at Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland. McIlroy was not wearing his wedding ring as he hit the driving range.

The golfer had said on Sunday that the ‘stars are aligning’ – just before he is thought to have filed the divorce papers in Palm Springs County, Florida, citing that his marriage had become ‘irretrievably broken’.

The Northern Irishman first met 35-year-old New York state native Erica during the tournament in Illinois, at which she was working for the PGA.

McIlroy and Stoll share three-year-old daughter Poppy Kennedy, who was born in 2020, having tied the knot in 2017 after a storybook meeting at the 2012 Ryder Cup.

He has previously credited the American with helping him make his tee time at Medinah – thanks to a police escort – after he missed his alarm.

He went on to win his match over Keegan Bradley as part of what was later hailed as the ‘miracle at Medinah’.

Despite initially meeting at the Ryder Cup that year, it wasn’t until a few years later that the pair would enter a relationship.

A few months after calling off his engagement with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki in 2014, McIlroy and Stoll got together before getting engaged a year later.

The four-time major champion and Stoll kept their relationship largely private before they married in a lavish ceremony in Ireland in 2017.

The couple exchanged their vows at Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland, in front of celebrity guests, including One Direction star Niall Horan and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, while music icons Ed Sheeran and Stevie Wonder performed at the event.

The petition for divorce states that the pair had signed a prenuptial agreement. However, the details of the arrangement have not been divulged.

The filing also calls for shared custody and a parenting plan to be established for Poppy.

McIlroy’s attorney was listed as Thomas Sasser, who represented Tiger Woods when his wife divorced him in 2010 after his serial cheating was infamously exposed in an episode that ended with Woos crashing his car into a fire hydrant and a tree.

McIlroy is due to speak to the media on Wednesday afternoon at Valhalla. His team has issued a statement on his behalf confirming proceedings were underway.

Sean O’Flaherty, McIlroy’s manager, said in a statement: ‘Rory McIlroy’s communications team confirmed today (Tuesday) that a divorce has been filed.

‘They stressed Rory’s desire to ensure this difficult time is as respectful and amicable as possible.’ He added there would be no further comment.

They are believed to have lived in a 12,800-square-foot, £7.6million ($9.5million) mansion in the golfing capital of Jupiter, Florida after McIlroy sold his plush Palm Beach Gardens mansion in 2018 for £9.5million ($11.9million).

It has been reported the house, in an area that hosts a number of professional golfers, once belonged to golfing legend Ernie Els.

Erica has regularly been spotted supporting her PGA husband at his tournaments, including the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome where she wowed in a stunning, strapless black gown on the Spanish Steps.

She was also on McIlroy’s bag for the Masters Par-3 competition with their daughter Poppy in 2023. However, the McIlroy family were notably absent from the traditional, annual event.

Erica grew up in New York and graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2008 with a marketing degree. She went on to work for the Professional Golf Association of America.

She was seen at The Players in March when the PGA Tour shared a heartwarming clip of she and Poppy greeting McIlroy on the 18th green.

The golfer was seen scooping his daughter into his arms for a hug with Erica telling him they had been watching his birdie-birdie finish.

And Erica was also seen supporting Rory throughout the second series of Netflix series Full Swing, which documented the 2023 PGA Tour.

Scenes showed her cooling Rory off during an outburst and giving him a kiss as Team Europe took the lead in last year’s Ryder Cup.

McIlroy infamously split from tennis star Wozniacki in 2014 just months before they were due to wed.

The golfer is said to have dumped his then-fiancée in a three-minute phone call hours after telling her he loved her. Their split came in May 2014, before they were due to marry in November.

McIlroy’s split from Wozniacki came days before the BMW PGA Championship in England, which he went on to win. At the same event the previous year, he tied for 96th place.

He said in a statement at the time that he was not ready for marriage – and while he said he would not make any further comment he did answer questions at a press conference that followed ahead of the tournament.

Looking drained and emotional, McIlroy said in 2014: ‘Obviously (it’s) quite a difficult time for Caroline and myself and I think the statement really said it all this morning.

‘It was mutual and amicable and we both thought it was the best for both of us. Time to move on and I think I’ve said all that I need to say.’

He also collected two major championships victories that year, The Open at Royal Liverpool in July and the PGA Championship in August at Valhalla – the same course as the same tournament this week.

Rumors swirled thereafter that Rory was dating Suits actress Meghan Markle – after they were caught hanging out in a video shared to her social media accounts.

The ring was visible on his hand throughout the tournament – with sources suggesting the divorce filing had come ‘out of the blue’
At the time, the golfer helped the actress participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge – a viral social media trend designed to raise awareness for motor neurone disease.

The two also reportedly enjoyed a late-night rendezvous together, enjoying a drink at a swanky New York City hotel before grabbing dinner at acclaimed celebrity hotspot Cipriani.

But the 2014 PGA Championship was McIlroy’s last major win with the Northern Irishman suffering a decade-long drought and failing to seal the career Grand Slam.

It is an eerily similar patter for the golfer, who won his 26th tournament on the PGA Tour, with his fourth Wells Fargo Championship victory in another dominant performance at Quail Hollow last weekend.

McIlroy filed for the divorce a day after winning in Charlotte, North Carolina, his second straight PGA Tour win and the 26th of his career.

Asked if he planned to go straight to Valhalla on Sunday night, McIlroy said, ‘I’ll probably go home and just sort of reset, then head up to Louisville tomorrow night or Tuesday morning.’

Two weeks before, he scooped yet another trophy for his cabinet, winning the Zurich Classic alongside pal and Ryder Cup teammate, Irishman Shane Lowry, with the duo celebrating their triumph with an impromptu rendition of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.

The report of his split with Stoll comes amid a tumultuous time for McIlroy after his attempt to return to the PGA Tour Policy Board was vetoed.

He had quit the board late last year citing personal and professional reasons, but had been expected to replace Webb Simpson upon his return.

But three of the five remaining player directors – which comprises of Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth – voted against the move.

Reports suggest Woods, a long-standing ally of McIlroy’s, was one of those who voted against the four-time major winner’s inclusion, with the votes being cast 3-2 for the 35-year-old to be excluded from the board.

Patrick Cantlay is said to be one of the other members who resisted McIlroy’s return. The third dissenter is not yet known.

McIlroy was an early critic of the Saudi Public Investment Fund-financed LIV Golf tournament, which has faced claims of sportswashing, but he has since softened his stance on the breakaway circuit.

Jimmy Dunne, one of the architects of an initial agreement between PGA and the Saudis’ Public Investment Fund, resigned from the policy board yesterday saying no meaningful progress had been made.

However, McIlroy played down any reports of a strain on his relationship with golf icon Woods, with whom he is spearheading new golfing venture TGL, last week.

‘I think friends can have disagreements or not see eye to eye on things,’ McIlroy said.

‘We had a really good talk last Friday for 45 minutes, just about a lot of different things. No, there’s no strain there.

‘I think we might see the future of golf a little bit differently, but I don’t think that should place any strain on a relationship or on a friendship.’

Woods said of friction between members of the policy board: ‘I think that we see it differently. But collectively as a whole we want to see whatever’s best for all the players, the fans, and the state of golf.

‘How we get there, that’s to be determined, but the fact that we’re in this together and in this fight together to make golf better is what it’s all about.’



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