TROON, Scotland – Rory McIlroy made the cut at the British Open on Friday, but his legacy this week at Royal Troon is certain to be tied to his comments about the Olympics.
Like an out-of-control train, McIlroy could not put the brakes on a news conference Wednesday that bordered on surreal. The 27-year-old Northern Irishman took to task the International Golf Federation for what he claims is a lackluster commitment to drug testing, his responsibility to grow the game and his limited support for the Rio Olympics, and even less for golf in the games.
Now, Olympic athletes and officials are calling McIlroy out for his comments.
Laura Massaro, a British squash player, said in a BBC 5Live interview: “It does seem a little unfair that a lot of sports out there would absolutely love their place in the Olympic Games, would see it as a pinnacle and would do everything they can to get an Olympic medal. I think his comments are unacceptable. It’s a lack of appreciation for how the Olympics can just transcend an individual sport.”
Massaro added that the International Olympic Committee should reconsider golf, which returns to the games this summer after a 112-year absence, as an Olympic sport.
It’s almost as if the IOC heard Massaro’s plea. IOC president Thomas Bach told the Associated Press in London on Wednesday that the absence of the world’s top players – Australia’s Jason Day, Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth and McIlroy, Nos. 1-4, respectively, in the world order – will be taken into account in the 2017 review of Olympic events.
“We’re also following with interest the discussions in the golf community, how they themselves are considering these discussions and what judgment they are making,” Bach said in a telephone interview.
“One of the main categories of the evaluation is, of course, the question of participation of the best players. Let us wait then for this evaluation. Then, of course, we will also speak with the International Golf Federation once this is available.”
Though many observers considered McIlroy’s comments to be offensive to his fellow professionals who will be heading to South America’s first Olympiad, Padraig Harrington shrugged them off.
“No, I’m not offended,” said Harrington, 44, a two-time British Open winner who will represent Ireland in the Aug. 11-14 tournament in Rio. “I see the comments of a young man with his career ahead of him compared to somebody like me or Paul McGinley, who is a more mature golfer with our careers behind us. We see the world in a different light than Rory. So, 20 year’s time, I’m sure he would be more like us.”
Harrington, a huge proponent of the Olympics and golf’s inclusion, received a spot on the Irish team in part because of McIlroy’s decision to withdrawal his name from consideration.
With the additional withdrawal of Shane Lowry, Harrington is the standard-bearer for Irish golf, with countryman Seamus Power.
“It’s good for the game of golf, no doubt about it, and, yeah, some guys, when you’re young and you feel like there’s loads of opportunity ahead, you don’t realize some of the things you’re missing out on,” Harrington said. “We have all been there.”