- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rory McIlroy went home to Northern Ireland after the Masters and left his clubs in Florida. He didn’t touch them again until he returned last week to start gearing up for a big summer that includes his title defense at the U.S. Open.

The Wells Fargo Championship will be only his second tournament in the past two months.

It’s an example of how McIlroy, who turns 23 on Friday, already is learning to find balance in a life that is more public than ever and getting increasingly busy. He was in Germany to watch his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, and he brought her home to Holywood in County Down on a whim. He even had occasion to chat with the Queen of England during a horse race at Newbury.

“For me, there’s more to life than just golf,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “I don’t know if people are surprised to hear that, but I have a lot going on in my life than just golf.”

McIlroy is growing into his role as the biggest of the game’s rising stars - on and off the golf course.

When he arrived at Quail Hollow, he made time Tuesday to film a commercial for the PGA Tour and its support of the St. Jude’s Children Hospital. McIlroy appears in the commercial with Shaun White, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding, and a 7-year-old boy named Dawson who is undergoing chemotherapy.

McIlroy is not even playing the St. Jude Classic next month, which benefits the hospital. No matter. Boy Wonder is touched by children, as he showed last year during a UNICEF trip to Haiti. And he was especially moved by Dawson.

“If I’m going to do anything like that, I want it to be with kids, because I feel like I can relate to them a little bit better than anything else,” McIlroy said. “To see someone go through what he’s going through, and to have all this positivity coming out of him, it just makes you realize how lucky and how fortunate we are. I know if I was going through an illness like what Dawson has, I don’t know if I would be as bright as and as happy and as cheery as he is. It’s definitely inspiring to see.”

McIlroy said there was one moment during the video shoot when the director told the boy that he could use a TelePrompTer if he forgot his lines.

“And he goes, ‘I don’t know how to read,’” McIlroy said. “So he memorized his lines, and he was brilliant. He was more of a pro than I was. It was cool to see.”

Conor Ridge, his agent at Horizon Sports Management, said White asked for McIlroy to be part of the commercial.

“Watching him react with Dawson was unreal,” Ridge said. “You forget how young Rory is.”

It’s easier to forget considering what he already has achieved.

McIlroy twice has reached No. 1 in the world this spring, only for Luke Donald to wrest it away from him last week in New Orleans. It’s a battle that could go on during the summer, with perhaps Lee Westwood rejoining the fray. McIlroy or Westwood could go to No. 1 with a win this week. Donald is not playing.

“It would be nice to assert my authority in that No. 1 position and keep it for a while,” McIlroy said.

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