Whether it was an afterthought or a blatant attempt to prove a point, the three words uttered by Rory McIlroy in a press conference on Tuesday – ‘stuff that matters’ – potentially wrecked thousands of hours of hard work and perseverance by men and women infinitely wiser than him.
We get it that he doesn’t want to go to Rio for the Olympics. But to say he is going to watch the ‘stuff that matters’ and not golf from Brazil was a step too far for someone who is viewed as the heir apparent to Tiger Woods as the man likely to lead the sport to a new level.
Instead, he could have inflicted a hammer blow with a comment which showed a surprising lack of maturity. McIlroy’s brutal honesty has been one of his endearing qualities, but this didn’t come across as him just calling a spade a spade.
Either he didn’t really mean what he said during the press conference or perhaps he was being economical with the truth the day he withdrew from the Games, citing concerns about the Zika virus.
Listening to the Northern Irishman on Tuesday, he gave the distinct impression tht he just did not agree with golf being part of the Olympics. Perhaps that then, and not Zika, was the real reason he pulled out. If this is what he thought all along, he could have made his feelings known to the In- ternational Golf Federation a long time ago. He could have done what Adam Scott did and not embarrass them in the manner he has done.
Legends of the game like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam, Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and respected administrators like Peter Dawson and Ty Votaw, and millions of golfers in countries as far-flung as China, India and Argentina have dreamt of golf in the Olympics for a reason. It really is one of the greatest opportunities to grow the sport.
Either he got up from the wrong side of the bed, or he took exception to something that the IGF members said the day before, but McIlroy almost seemed intent on ensuring that 2016 will be the last time golf is part of the five-ringed sporting extravaganza.
McIlroy’s comment is also extremely disrespectful to 120 of his colleagues, who have shown far greater courage and gumption than him to commit to the Games and travel despite the danger.
The four-time major champion has opened his mouth without engaging his brain before, and regretted it at a later date. Remember his famous comments about the Ryder Cup being nothing more than exhibition matches? Well, he quickly changed his opinion after playing the tournament in 2010.
Hopefully, McIlroy will do something similar after giving Olympic golf a chance. Perhaps he should experience that incredible feeling of walking under the national flag during the march past before turning his back on the Olympics.
McIlroy was also wrong to say he got into the game to win golf tournaments, not grow the game.
While he may have worked the hardest to achieve all the success, there are many people and factors play small but significant roles in the whole process.
Like Peter Parker was reminded, perhaps it is time for someone to tell McIlroy… ‘With great power, comes great responsibility…”