TROON, Scotland -- On Tuesday night, Rory McIlroy was on hand at the annual Association of Golf Writers dinner to accept its player-of-the-year award. When asked by the BBC's Iain Carter -- in front of a large group of assembled press -- if he reads what's written about him, McIlroy responded, "I probably won't tomorrow."
That reaction drew a hearty laugh, but the headlines regarding McIlroy early this week were far from funny. The four-time major champ took some major heat regarding comments he made about the Olympics during his pre-Open Championship press conference. Mainly, these:
“I don’t think it was as difficult a decision for me as it was for Jordan,” he said on Tuesday. “I don’t feel like I’ve let the game down at all. I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win major championships. I get that I have a responsibility to the game. But at the same time I got into golf to win. I didn’t get into golf to get other people into the game.
“I’m very happy with the decision I made. I have no regrets. I’ll probably watch the Olympics. But I’m not sure golf will be one of the events I watch.”
Following a solid opening 69 at Royal Troon on Thursday that has him three shots behind early leader Patrick Reed, McIlroy answered a series of questions about his round -- before the topic of conversation inevitably turned to his candid comments concerning his decision to not go to Rio. Here’s how it went:
Q. Is it nice to talk about the golf instead of the Olympics?
RORY McILROY: It is nice, actually. It’s nice that the tournament started. But, yeah, look, I think I said all I needed to say on that matter and hopefully I can go out tomorrow and play similar to the way I did today and get myself right into contention for another claret jug.
Q. Are you happy with everything that you said in that press conference the other day?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think I would have elaborated a little bit on the grow-the-game comment. Obviously I feel like I do my bit to grow the game. It’s not as if I’m uninterested. I feel like golf is a great vehicle to -- I don’t want to force golf on anyone. But I feel like golf is a great vehicle to instill 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.
Look, again, the next generation can play golf if they want or they don’t. It won’t make me any less happy. But if I can somehow make a positive change in the world by what I do on the golf course, so whether that means raise money for charity or give kids more of a chance in life growing up, I’ve been very fortunate to do what I’ve done in golf, and I feel like I’ve used that success in a positive way.
So I have no regrets about where I stand on certain things, but I wish I maybe would have just elaborated a little bit more on what I said.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I still don’t think I’m the only one. Look, it’s my opinion. I think my opinion’s shared by a few people, but some people may think it’s wrong and that’s fine. But 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.
Fair enough, but to be safe, he might want to avoid reading the papers again on Friday.