Friday 22 September 2017

McIlroy puts Trump storm behind him

Rory McIlroy p[ictured before his round with US President Donald Trump
Rory McIlroy p[ictured before his round with US President Donald Trump
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Funny thing about walls. They can cause problems for professional sportsmen.

The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and in 1978 West Bromwich Albion player John Trewick rated it thus: "You've seen one wall, you've seen them all."

Trewick's quip has gone down in sporting lore as a prime example of, at best, the average footballer's blinkered outlook on the world beyond a soccer stadium.

Ah, but what about a wall that has not been constructed, as in the one Donald Trump said he would build between the USA and Mexico?

The concept inflamed opinion in Mexico when it was first mooted by Trump, whose recent golf partner Rory McIlroy makes a return to action after injury.

Timing, of course, is everything.

McIlroy has probably already moved on from the storm of controversy over his game of golf with Trump last week.

He has dealt as best he could with the torrent of opinions expressed on social and regular media on the issue.

The Holywood ace has no regrets, saying: "It was, quite simply, a round of golf."

That said, competing in Mexico so soon after the eruption of passionate worldwide debate on his acceptance of an invitation to play with the president of the USA is a distraction McIlroy hardly needs right now.

Factor

The Trump connection with the tournament is another factor, as his Doral venue had hosted this tournament under the WGC banner since 2011, and the PGA Tour played in the Miami area since 1962.

This event, dubbed the WGC-Mexico Championship, has replaced Doral, partly due to Cadillac ending their sponsorship, and it takes place at the Club de Golf Chapultepec near Mexico City.

McIlroy has to brace himself for further questioning on the 'golf with Trump' situation before he can get down to the real business of teeing it up on Thursday.

Once he gets out on the golf course and starts playing, the focus will turn to the state of his game.

The four-time Major champion's six week absence due to a rib injury meant he was sidelined while most of his top rivals were tuning up their game.

Rickie Fowler won the Honda Classic on Sunday night by four shots; Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas have all claimed a place on the winner's podium in 2017; and Henrik Stenson returns for his first tournament in the USA since the autumn.

The advantage for McIlroy of playing of four rounds in the no-cut tournament is huge, although the competition is formidable this week.

Whatever outsiders think about his game with Trump, McIlroy will be welcomed back by his fellow professionals.

Fowler, speaking after his win at PGA National on Sunday, mentioned the texts of congratulations he had received from players, including McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

Jealousy does not come into the equation for Fowler, or indeed for any of the other top young performers.

"We talked about it for a few years now, and the game is in a great spot," he said.

Fun

"A lot of young players, a lot of great players playing well, a lot of young players winning. It's fun seeing it. It's motivating seeing my friends go win.

"I know there's a handful of guys that aren't here; some guys either take this week off, Rory being hurt. But still, it's motivating when I see them play well. It makes me want to go out and do that.

"I'm looking forward to having Rory back, and see if we can get Tiger back going.

"He texted me last night, as well, and told me to go get it done. It's great to have the backing of my peers.

On the European Tour, Darren Clarke and Paul Dunne compete in the Tshwane Open.

Last year Dunne's club, Greystones, won the Irish Mixed Foursomes title, and yesterday the GUI announced that the Spanish Tourist Board will again back the competition under the title 'I Need Spain Irish Mixed Foursomes'.

Irish Independent

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