Rory McIlroy has refused to back down over his controversial comments about golf in the Olympics, insisting he “may as well be true to myself” after “seven years of trying to give the PC answer”.
The four-time major winner, who has opted out of the Games in Rio due to health concerns, said earlier in the week that he probably wouldn’t be watching the golf tournament and was more likely to tune into “events that matter like track and field, swimming and diving”. He also denied that his decision to miss the sport’s return to the Olympics after a gap of 112 years was letting the game down, saying he got into golf to “win championships not to grow the game.”
Speaking after carding an opening two-under-par 69 in the Open Championship at Royal Troon, McIlroy took the chance to point out that he does, in fact, support grass-roots golf in a “positive way” on both sides of the Atlantic. However, he waded in even deeper over the Olympics as IOC officials come to terms with 20 male golfers, including the game’s four top-ranked players, withdrawing from next month’s sporting spectacle due to concerns over the Zika virus.
“I’ve thought about Olympics and golf for the last seven years and I decided it was time to stop dancing around the issue and actually tell everyone what I thought,” said the 27-year-old.
“Some people don’t like it, I get that; it’s my opinion and my opinion may be wrong, I may be wrong in a lot of people’s minds. But, to me, it’s just how I feel. I don’t think anyone can blame me for being too honest. But, at the same time, it was seven years of trying to give the PC answer and finally I just cracked. I’ve spent seven years trying to please everyone, and I figured out that I can’t really do that, so I may as well be true to myself.”
While McIlroy’s comments about not being interested in trying to help grow the game came across to some as being cold and selfish, he runs a junior foundation in Ireland and has also helped with the development of junior golf in the US, where he has a home.
“I have no regrets about where I stand on certain things, but I think I would have elaborated a little bit on the grow-the-game comment,” he added when asked if he’d been happy with the things he said on Tuesday. “I feel like I do my bit to grow the game. It’s not as if I’m uninterested. I don’t want to force golf on anyone. But I feel like golf is a great vehicle to instil values in kids. I’m an ambassador for the PGA Junior League, I do some stuff for the First Tee in the States, and I feel like I’ve used my success in golf in a very positive way in the community.”
McIlroy had mixed emotions about his opening effort in Ayrshire, having been four-under with six to play. But he insisted: “My game is definitely good enough this week to contend and have a chance to win.”