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Rory McIlroy calls out President Trump's handling of COVID-19 pandemic, says he wouldn't play golf with him again


Then presidential candidate Donald Trump talks to Rory McIlroy ahead of the final round of the 2016 WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral.

Mike Ehrmann

Three years ago, Rory McIlroy came under fire on social media for playing golf with President Donald Trump but defended the decision by saying he accepted the invitation out of respect for the office. He said at the time the round “wasn’t an endorsement nor a political statement of any kind.”

Speaking on the McKellar Journal podcast on Thursday, McIlroy made a different kind of statement, however, when asked about the round with the president.

“I’ll sit here and say the day that I did spend with him and others was very enjoyable,” the four-time major winner and world’s top-ranked golfer said. “He’s very charismatic, he was nice to everyone—it didn’t matter whether you were me or guys in the cart barn or the pro at the golf club. He has something. He obviously has something or he wouldn’t be in the White House, right? He has something—whatever it is, an X-factor, charisma, whatever. Most people that he came across that day he was cordial to, he was nice and personable. That was my only interaction with him the day I had with him.

“So I will sit here and say that the day I had with him I enjoyed, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything or, in fact, anything that he says.”

The 31-year-old McIlroy didn’t stop there, voicing his displeasure with how Trump has handled the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re in the midst of something that’s pretty serious right now, and the fact that he’s trying to politicize it and make it a campaign rally and say we’re administering the most tests in world like it is a contest—there’s something that just is terrible,” said McIlroy, who will play with Dustin Johnson against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in the TaylorMade Driving Relief skins match on Sunday to raise money for COVID-19 causes. “It’s not the way a leader should act. There’s a sort of diplomacy that you need to have, and I don’t think he’s showing that—especially in these times.”

McIlroy acknowledged after that round in 2017 at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla., the heated reaction it elicited that he was guilty by association and “lesson learned.” He also said that he hasn’t played with Trump since, though he’s been asked. When McIlroy, who lives near the president’s residence in Palm Beach, was questioned on the podcast whether his decision to decline was by choice, he said, “Out of choice.”

Asked if he would ever play with Trump again, McIlroy said, “I don’t know if he’d want to play with me again after what I just said. I know it’s very self-serving of me to say no, and if I don’t, then it means then I’m not putting myself in position to be under scrutiny and that I’m avoiding that.

“But no, I wouldn’t.”