[Ed note: The sun is coming up and I haven’t slept (instead I’ve been meaning to write my epic rant in defense of Rory McIlroy’s comments during his presser at Royal Troon on Tuesday and the ensuing overreaction/misinterpreation/oversight, but instead I engaged in debates with people on Twitter for the last 3-4 hours (I really should know better at this point), and I have a very important engagement in three hours. In other words, I’m not going to be able to write my full takedown on why everyone needs to back off and shed some light on why perhaps McIlroy has developed a bit of disdain for Olympic golf Hint: How many other players have been asked regularly for the last five years (at least) which country they are going to represent in the Olympics? And if you don’t understand the implications and history, here is a detailed explanation and an excellent breakdown written by one of contributors who happens to be Irish back in 2012.]
First, I have just a few housekeeping notes to mention. I’m absolutely fed up with the topic of golf in the Olympics (I mean, I haven’t really been enthused since they announced the format–72-hole stroke play, making it an entirely individual competition), and the whole situation has gotten so absurd that I don’t even want to mention, talk or write about it, but I do feel strongly enough about my take on what’s turned into an absolute debacle, along with defending Rory McIlroy’s remarks in his Tuesday presser at Royal Troon ahead of the Open Championship this week.
Secondly, I’m still trying to figure out what “grow the game” means. Confession: I’m sure I’ve used it at some point, but not in the same sense with how it gets shoved down our throats by the powers-that-be and how much the suits seem to enjoy discussing their initiatives to “grow the game.” I know they’re generally well-intentioned, but it rings a little hollow sometimes. I came across this tweet Tuesday evening and it’s basically the best explanation of the phrase I’ve heard.
I can’t help but think all this Olympic “grow the game” talk is really “grow the business of golf” talk. Good paying jobs will grow golf
— Peter Kostis (@peterjkostis) July 12, 2016
I mean, I’ve been trying to figure out what that phrase means exactly for *years* because of how much every tour and governing body throws it around, but the numbers have only declined in recent years. And when you say you want to “grow the game,” everyone nods and smiles enthusiastically like you’re Mother Teresa and can do no wrong.
Alright, now let’s get to the meat of these *godawful* comments McIlroy made on Tuesday. Well, that’s the opinion of about 95% of people, it seems, but I am in the minority. I thought Rory’s presser was brilliant — one of his best. He was feisty and he’s always been candid and genuine, but there was also perhaps a bit of a sense of disdain or annoyance in his tone toward the end. (Look, we always want athletes to be honest and express opinions, so it’s unfair to crucify them when they actually do because you disagree. Like you and me, Rory is entitled to his own opinions and decisions.)
Because many scribes have failed to use McIlroy’s full quotes and only included his first sentence before he elaborated on what he meant, I’m just going to cut and paste the controversial comments that didn’t sit well with a lot of people.
Q. Jordan just said a little while ago that pulling out of the Olympics is the most difficult decision that he’s ever made. He’ll agonize watching the opening ceremony and you guys competing. I know it’s been a few weeks, but do you have any sadness, any disappointment? Secondly, do you guys feel that maybe you’ve let the game down a little bit considering non-golf fans will be watching in Rio?
RORY McILROY: Honestly, I don’t think it was as difficult a decision for me as it was for him. 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 championships and win major championships, and all of a sudden you get to this point and there is a responsibility on you to grow the game, and I get that. But at the same time that’s not the reason that I got into golf. I got into golf to win. I didn’t get into golf to get other people into the game.
But, look, I get where different people come from and different people have different opinions. But I’m very happy with the decision that I’ve made and I have no regrets about it. I’ll probably watch the Olympics, but I’m not sure golf will be one of the events I watch.
Q. Which events will you watch in that case?
RORY McILROY: Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters.
HOLY SHIT. THE HORROR! RORY MCILROY JUST EXPRESSED HIS HONEST OPINION, SO NOW HE’S DOOMED GOLF IN THE OLYMPICS! THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THE IOC WILL VOTE TO KEEP GOLF IN THE GAMES PAST 2020! THANKS A LOT, RORY.
Please. Give me a f*cking break. Let’s be real here. Any former junior golfers out there? College golfers? Competitive golfers of any type? Yeah, I see your hands raised. So, when you were 2 or 5 or 10 or however old taking up the game, how many of you or anyone kid who has picked up a club said, “I want to play golf and become a pro, so I can grow the game!”
Yeah, absolutely zero. No junior golfer has ever said that in their life. And you’re lying if you say you did. Kids don’t get into things to try and inspire other kids in the future to do something. I mean, maybe a few special ones here or there, but again, let’s be real. Once again, what does “grow the game” really mean?
Well, okay, aside from the above tweet, I’ve also gathered that what people like to envision are pros leading a flood of inner-city kids to the local muni golf course, pick up a set of clubs and just instantly fall in love with the game. That doesn’t work or happen, and it’s simply not reality, especially given the necessary resources, instruction, time and money, etc. We all know golf isn’t something you just “pick up,” regardless of talent and athleticism.
Hell, Tiger Woods in his prime wasn’t even able to attract more people to play golf! Sure, he increased TV viewership and purse sizes, etc., but he couldn’t even “grow the game” in the way certain people would like to idealize.
All that said, I have no idea why everyone is up in arms when Rory simply said he didn’t start playing golf with the thought of growing the game. Somehow, it’s turned into Rory also just not understanding the responsibility and obligations that come along with being a top-ranked major champion.
McIlroy has done plenty to “grow the game.” He has achieved that by winning major championships. Four of them. (As he reminded everyone in his presser, the other guys only have one or two. Yep, another fact.) Rory has always been one of the most gracious, humble and just generally delightful players on Tour. He “gets” it — as he did indeed mention in the presser, which many publications apparently failed to include. He has been a wonderful ambassador for golf, and those who disagree simply don’t know him or what they’re talking about.
Oh, for good measure, let’s not forget how a few years ago, the Irish Open was in serious trouble after three years without a sponsor and was becoming a second-rate event with one of the smaller purses on the European Tour. Well, in the fall of 2014, Rory stepped up and approached tournament organizers, telling them he wanted to help and “give something back,” so he got his foundation involved and attached his name to the event as the tournament host.
Then, just two months ago, McIlroy won the Irish Open at the K Club in absolute sensational fashion. We all remember that amazing shot he hit into the 72nd hole for a kick-in eagle, along with that other phenomenal fairway wood into the 16th that set him up for birdie.
“Golf-wise this week, it’s obviously very important to me, but also with the work that we’ve put into this tournament and the work that we’ve put into the foundation and the people that we are going help from this week,” said McIlroy after the win.
“We’ve already raised over €500,000 going into today for the three chosen charities, and then all the winnings go towards that as well, so we’ve broken the €1m mark this week, which is absolutely incredible. I don’t usually get emotional about golf or about wins, but this one, it means just a little bit more, because it’s not just for myself. It’s for a lot of other people. It’s a day I’ll not forget for a while.”
Yeah, Rory’s done absolutely nothing for the game! And now, he’s absolutely ruined the future of golf in the Olympics and he’s stunted growing the game by not playing as he would have inspired so many Irish kids to take it up! Guys, Ireland doesn’t need Rory to win a gold medal for them to play golf because it’s Ireland — safe to assume hundreds (maybe more?) of little boys and girls have picked up golf because of Rory. (And actually Rory winning another major probably would have more of an impact than a medal.)
But, wait, he’s ruined it for all those third-world countries that could have used the government funding to GROW THE GAME! Yeah, I mean, Rory not playing in the Olympics is really going to cause the children in, say, South America — who likely don’t even know who the big stars are in the first place — to have zero interest in golf and for courses to be built and funding to be made available, etc.
OK, now I am going to nap for an hour before my important engagement and then I will get into my rant about the absolute overreaction to his “stuff that matters” remark and what I believe he meant, along with the rest of my diatribe on other crap that no one has considered or people have misinterpreted.
Oh, and I can’t forget how it’s none of our effing business why he’s not playing nor is it fair to tell him how he should feel about health concerns. He’s going to start a family in the next few years and there’s just no point of risking the possibility of your unborn child having birth deformities or contracting a crippling virus, even if it’s a 1% chance he contracts Zika. And if you don’t believe that’s the reason, well, it’s his health, along with his family’s, and there may be stuff we don’t know about, etc. Basically, it’s his choice and it’s not our place to tell any player he should play and then fault him for the inevitable failure of golf in the Olympics.
Then as I mentioned at the start, his whole situation with which country he was representing, etc…
TO BE CONTINUED.