Top golfer blasts Trump’s COVID-19 response: “campaign rally”

It’s a presidential election year so people from the world of sports are asked to comment on President Trump. It used to be a rarity when sports figures weighed in with personal political opinions but not so anymore. Now they freely spout their political opinions as a tool to do some self-promotion.

When a top-ranked sports figure weighs in, that person is pretty much assured of a headline, or at the very least, an article in publications. The latest example is Rory Mcllroy, the world’s top-ranked golfer. If you wondered why a golfer is making headlines during the coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. I had the same question, especially since the story was based on a round of golf played in 2017.

As it turns out, McIlroy was a guest on the McKellar Golf Podcast. In a 90 minute interview, the golfer from Northern Ireland first acknowledged what a terrific time he had when he played a round of golf with President Trump at Trump International Golf Club in Florida back in February 2017. In a write-up of that golf game at the time of it, Trump wasn’t the person publicizing playing with the top golfer. Apparently, it was McIlroy who put a picture up on social media the next day about playing golf with the president. McIlroy also told a golf website,, about playing 18 holes with President Trump.

Unfortunately for him, McIlroy was on the receiving end of lots of criticism from people on social media. He should have been prepared for an anti-Trump backlash before he hit the publish button with a picture but he wasn’t. After the trolls canceled him for daring to accept an invitation from the most powerful man on earth to play golf, he decided he would not accept any more invitations from Trump. McIlroy was called a bigot and a fascist by the trolls. Those words seem tame in comparison to what is lobbed Trump’s way these days, right? And now he wants to make it perfectly clear that he does not share Trump’s politics.

Podcast hosts Lawrence Donegan and John Huggan asked him about that day. McIlroy has a residence in Florida besides one in Northern Ireland, so it probably wasn’t a huge surprise to be asked to play with Trump. He said the president was very nice to everyone from the golf players to the workers at the club.

“I’ll sit here and say the day that I did spend with him and others was very enjoyable. He’s very charismatic, he was nice to everyone — it didn’t matter whether you were me or guys in the cart barn or the pro at the golf club.

“He has something. He obviously has something or he wouldn’t be in the White House, right? He has something. … Whatever it is, it’s an X factor or it’s charisma, I don’t know. Whatever you call it but most people that he came across that day, he was cordial, he was nice, he was personable and that’s my only real interaction with him.”

Then McIlroy allowed the podcast hosts to take him into political territory. He had to make the Orange Man bad, you know.

“So I will sit here and say that day I had with him I enjoyed,” McIlroy said. “But that doesn’t mean I agree with everything — or, in fact, anything — that he says.”

“Like it’s a contest,” he said of Trump’s claim that the U.S. has administered more tests than any other nation. “We’re in the midst of something that’s pretty serious right now and the fact that he’s trying to politicize it and make it a campaign rally. There’s some stuff that just is terrible. It’s not the way a leader should act. There is a bit of diplomacy that you need to show, and I just don’t think he’s showing that, especially in these times.”

He sounds a lot like CBS White House correspondent Weijia Jiang, doesn’t he?

So, McIlroy, who likely isn’t even a voter in American elections weighed in on his thoughts about how Trump is handling the pandemic. I assume he did so in order to help publicize a golf event he is participating in with some other top golfers and sports figures to help open up what is left of the PGA Tour season.

They will be carrying their own bags, putting to flagsticks that likely won’t be tended and retrieving their golf balls from a cup prepped for safety.

But they also are four professional golfers who compete at the highest level, and they will be shown competing live on television.

It’s a start.

The TaylorMade Driving Relief event on Sunday at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida, is the first televised event of PGA Tour golfers competing since the Players Championship was canceled on March 12.

“Just been trying to stay as patient as possible,” said Rory McIlroy, who headlines the event along with Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff. “For a tour player to spend this prolonged length of time at home … you’re just trying to find ways to fill your time. I think if anything, just appreciate the little things, the things that we took for granted before this all happened.”

That’s why the TaylorMade Driving Relief event and the match on May 24 involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are so welcome. It is finally an opportunity to see a live sporting event, even if the outcome is of no consequence.

All the money raised will go to charities. McIlroy and Johnson are playing for the American Nurses Foundation. Fowler and Wolff are playing for the CDC Foundation.

I don’t watch golf. I think it’s boring. I imagine it will please golf fans, though, that the sport is beginning to be televised again. Too bad McIlroy had to be such a jerk in order to publicize it. Perhaps he thinks Trump supporters don’t watch golf. Or maybe he’s waiting on an invitation from the Biden campaign.

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