You might think that being the World No. 1 makes it easier to be a spokesman for the game but few, if any, have ever managed it. Rory McIlroy does
One of the most interesting moments in the Ryder Cup two years ago was when the victorious European team began to stream in for their post-match press conference. There was a quick exchange with the eyes between Rory McIlroy and Thomas Bjorn and the captain nodded his head towards the seat immediately next to him while everyone else could pretty much come and go as they pleased.
McIlroy’s been sent off top in the singles in the last two matches, a position he’s lost twice from at the 18th, but, when push comes to shove, he’s very much the main man.
More recently he’s become the go-to voice in the game. As much as we’d all love Tiger to be more vocal, after 25 years it’s probably not going to happen. Brooks Koepka has opened up as the majors have come tumbling in but the tone is generally more spikey than stimulating, Dustin Johnson generally/always says nothing, Justin Rose is too polished, and it’s too soon for Jon Rahm.
Justin Thomas is cut from a similar cloth to McIlroy but, in terms of global reach, the Northern Irishman is the one most of us turn to for what we should be thinking.
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The PGA Tour commissioner spoke to the media at Sawgrass this week and, in among all the corporate chat, he said this of the 30-year-old’s stance on the proposed Premier League.
“I would tell you that it just reminded us all of how thoughtful and thorough Rory McIlroy is. He’s one of the top players in the world, and he had fully understood that model and what was being proposed, and he’s lived this one,” Monahan said.
“I was certainly proud and pleased on that given day, and candidly, as I’ve talked to a lot of top players in my one-on-one conversations, I’ve heard a lot of the same. But I thought that was a moment of leadership, and that was a special time, special day.”
While most of his peers were still hedging their bets or pretending they still hadn’t read the email, the email promising them millions of dollars, McIlroy fronted up. “I didn’t really like where the money was coming from,” he explained.
Much of it, if it does come off, is being funded from Saudi Arabia.
McIlroy also made the rock-solid point that he didn’t want to be contracted to play 18 events, aside from the majors and whatever else, and being told when and where he would be playing.
But the stand-out comment is the one that got all the headlines and, for Brandel Chamblee, the plaudits.
“That one line is his brilliance,” Chamblee said. “Think about that philosophical question. Somebody comes to you and says, I’m going to pay you 10 times the money you’re making to do the exact same job but with it comes a little baggage, and then we all sort of hedge a little bit here and a little bit here, and the next thing you know you don’t care if they’re throwing homosexuals off buildings for sport, chopping people up, and killing them because they changed their religion.
“I applaud the man. What he does on the course is one thing, but what he did in the media centre, I mean, that’s rarer than the athletic skill that he has.”
As for McIlroy himself he likes his new(ish) role.
“I think I have somewhat of a responsibility. Not just for myself but for the other players. I’ve been around the top of the game for a long time now, over a decade, and I think being at the age I am, I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin and in my own beliefs and values and convictions. I’m not trying to set some sort of example, but I guess I want to be a voice out there that can at least put forth some good commentary and a decent opinion on things, and that’s what I try to do.”