Rory McIlroy is no stranger to the odd sensational remark and very rarely holds back when asked for his real thoughts on a matter. It often doesn’t matter whether he is asked or not these days; if the 28-year-old Northern Irishman has something to say, he’s going to come out and say it. That’s exactly what he was doing during the build-up to the Wells Fargo Championship and his comments wouldn’t have pleased some of the golfing purists out there.
McIlroy was discussing his latest Masters failure, where he could only muster a 74 in the fourth round to tie fifth after going out in the final group with Patrick Reed. The Ulsterman was in a reflective mood and chatted about how his wife Erica had to drag him out of their home a couple of weeks after the Masters ended. McIlroy says he was holed up and reading self-help sports psychology books as he tried to come to terms with another stumble at Augusta National’s final hurdle.
His tune has changed somewhat after he was recorded saying that his Masters campaign had been a positive one when interviewed after the tournament ended. The last month spent away from the game has him speaking more openly about his Sunday stumble. He’ll have to wait until the 2019 Masters to eventually win it, where he is 10/1 in golf betting to do so. Judging by this latest interview, it’s the only win he now truly covets.
The controversy came with regards to McIlroy’s comments on the Masters being the only major he cared about – it’s easy to see why that would have ruffled a few feathers at the R&A. He was unequivocal about how he felt about the Masters, saying it was the “biggest tournament in the world and I’m comfortable saying that”.
The Northern Irishman wasn’t quite finished and went on to say “I don’t care about the US Open or The Open, it is the biggest tournament in the world”. McIlroy concluded by saying that the Masters was the most special event on tour in his opinion and the one everyone wants to win. As always, McIlroy isn’t ambiguous with what he says but these utterances could be taken out of context.
As far as viewing numbers go, he is correct, when you take into consideration the US TV audiences for every golf major in 2016. During that year, 5.4 million people watched the US Open and 4.9 million watched The Open, which pales in comparison to the 12.4 million that watched the Masters. There’s no doubt the Masters is the biggest tournament in the world of golf but McIlroy’s robust delivery and inflammatory comments hinder the straightforward and logical point he is entitled to make.
Straight talking in the world of sport is a welcome change to the mundane robotic answers that sports lovers have to endure every time a sportsman has a mic thrust in their face. McIlroy is a breath of fresh air and in some ways, you can’t have your cake and eat it. If fans want more transparency and honesty, then they need to be prepared for things they may also not want to hear.
Given that golf is steeped in tradition because it has spanned over hundreds of centuries and partly because it originated in Scotland, it’s not hard to figure out why McIlroy’s latest comments won’t be that well received by some. Nevertheless, roll on the 2018 Open at Carnoustie.