Rory McIlroy backs Justin Thomas to be 'better person' after homophobic slur

Rory McIlroy has praised Justin Thomas for the way he owned up to a homophobic slur and has backed the American to use the unfortunate episode to become a “better person than he already is”.

Justin Thomas, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy pose for a photograph ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.
Justin Thomas, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy pose for a photograph ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.

Clothing company Ralph Lauren has terminated its sponsorship of Thomas, the world No 3, following an on-course comment during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii earlier this month.

The 2017 US PGA champion was heard using the derogatory word towards himself after missing a par putt on the fourth hole at Kapalua a week past Saturday.

Thomas is making his first appearance since being dropped by Ralph Lauren in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and will be alongside McIlroy and defending champion Lee Westwood in tomorrow’s opening round.

“I think he’s already responded really well,” said McIlroy in reply to being asked about Thomas in a pre-event press conference at Abu Dhabi Golf Club this morning.

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“I think he realised he made a big mistake as soon as it was brought to him in Hawaii and he completely owned up to it.

“He said he messed up, he’s going to try to be better, and Justin is true to his word. He will be.

“I’ve got to know Justin really well and he is as good a guy as they come. He has a lot of integrity, a lot of character.

“Obviously, it doesn’t make what he said any better, but I think in this day in age it is hard because it seems you are not allowed to make a mistake any more. Any mistake gets jumped on.

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“He made a mistake and he owned up to it. And he will be better because of it. He will maybe not be as ignorant to things that sort of, I am trying to think of the right word here, offend people, I guess.

“What he said was offensive to a large portion of the population. He will be better for it, he will learn, he will move on.

“He will be just as good a golfer as he has always been and, if anything it will probably make him a better person than he already is, which is hard because he is already a great guy.”

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