McIlroy puts Olympics decision on hold ahead of bid to win $10m bumper bonus at FedEx Cup
21:32 GMT, 19 September 2012
Nine days on from the interview that caused a firestorm of protest back home and comment around the world, Rory McIlroy got the chance to offer his take on Wednesday.
Contrite might be the word for it. The Northern Irishman, brought up to respect the creed that honesty is the best policy, has learned the hard way that honesty doesn’t always pay.
In an interview with Sportsmail, McIlroy said that he felt ‘more British than Irish.’
Having his say: Rory McIlroy caused a storm after saying he felt more British than Irish
A lot of reasoned voices had no problem with a man expressing an opinion. The xenophobe nutters who accused him of betrayal didn’t cause any lost sleep.
But it was the sense of hurt among from the thoughtful Irish masses, who have followed his progress from way back and enjoyed his rise to become one of the world’s best sportsmen, that this inherently decent 23 year old felt bad about.
‘Over the past week it has really hit home just how important my success is for a lot of people and what it means to them,’ he said.
‘I’ve had support from all sides, from people who call themselves Irish, from Northern Irish, to the whole of the UK, to people in America, and it would be terrible for me to segregate myself from one of those groups that support me so much.
‘It’s four years away before I have to decide about the Olympics, and after everything that happened last week, it definitely makes me reconsider my position and reconsider a lot of things.’
Does that mean he might play for Ireland, after all, in Rio As McIlroy said, let’s leave that one for four years and just celebrate Rory the golfer.
Shelving it: McIlroy says he will decide who to represent at the 2016 Olympics in the future
Here he is at the start of another momentous fortnight. Next week he will be a ‘marked man,’ in Jim Furyk’s words, at the Ryder Cup.
But first up is the chance to obtain another landmark in his wonderful year and claim the $10 million bonus that goes to the winner of the FedEx Cup.
This morning’s first round of the Tour Championship sees him, as so often during this four tournament race, play alongside the man he has usurped as the figurehead, Tiger Woods.
‘Morning, intimidator,’ said Tiger to Rory on the practice ground, a broad smile on his face.
This was Woods referencing some ludicrous remarks made by Greg Norman, in which he said that Woods was now feeling intimidated by McIlroy.
‘How can I intimidate Tiger’ said Rory. ‘The guy has got 75 US Tour wins and 14 majors, he’s the biggest thing to ever happen in our sport.
'How could some little 23 year old from Northern Ireland with a few wins intimidate him It’s just not possible. I don’t know where Greg got it from but it is not true.’
Woods’s response ‘It’s got to be Rory’s hair that does it,’ he said.
Intimidated McIlroy said there is no way he could faze the experienced Tiger Woods
There was a more steely-eyed look, mind, when he was asked about McIlroy saying he would love to meet Tiger on Sunday at the Ryder Cup.
‘That would be fun,’ commented Woods, and there was no smile this time.
McIlroy comes here following a week’s holiday in New York, where he spent time with the New York Knicks basketball team.
The connection between the two is the fitness coach they share, Steve McGregor. McIlroy got to train with them and recharge following a fabulous run that has seen him win three of his last four tournaments.
‘It has been a long stretch of golf since the Open so it was an important week off to get myself ready for not only this week but next week as well,’ he said.
Having led the FedEx race for so long, is there any danger of going to the Ryder Cup feeling flat if he does not win it
‘There could be a little adjustment period but once you enter the team room it doesn’t take much to get the juices flowing,’ he commented.
Looking forward: Woods said it would be 'fun' if the pair were to meet at the Ryder Cup
Back home it has been an awful week, with the sporting world in the province shocked by the desperately sad death of Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence in a tragic farm accident.
‘I knew Nevin and have been around him a lot,’ said McIlroy. ‘To think that we are not going to see him again on the rugby pitch.
'It has been the first time really for someone my age to pass away and it’s tough. I have spoken to a few of the guys back home and I know it has hit Ulster very hard.’
So to the day job, where Thursday’s opening round will be all about him and Tiger.
But don’t forget Lee Westwood. A victory here, and he too would have every chance of walking off with the mammoth prize.