Monday 23 October 2017

McIlroy masters art of diplomacy as he moves to cool Olympic debate

Karl MacGinty

RORY McILROY is perfecting the art of diplomacy! The Holywood man adroitly tiptoed around a potential minefield at Atlanta Athletic Club yesterday when the thorny issue of which country he might represent at the Olympic Games arose.

Two years ago, when golf learned of its admission to the Olympic family, McIlroy innocently expressed excitement at the prospect of being a team-mate of British diver Tom Daly in Rio in 2016.

Yet, McIlroy was far more circumspect yesterday when asked about his interest in playing golf at the Games and how he thought it'd work into golf's crowded mid-summer schedule.

"It's going to be tough, scheduling wise, but it's five years away," he said.

"It'd be a huge honour to represent (at this point McIlroy paused momentarily before continuing) your country in the Olympics. It'd be a great achievement to win a gold medal."

Later, he'd interrupt an Irish reporter who attempted to ask the obvious question: "I know what you're going to say and the answer is, I still don't know (who I'll represent at the Olympics)."

changed

This left one British colleague scratching his head. "Two years ago, you were sure you wanted to play for GB&NI at the Olympics, so what's changed that you're not sure?" he enquired.

"Basically, if I'm going to be honest, like I usually am, whatever I say it's going to upset someone," McIlroy retorted. "So I may as well say, 'I don't know' and wait until four or five years' time when I have to make a decision." Solomon would have been proud.

McIlroy has been living in a goldfish bowl since winning the US Open, with particular fascination in media circles surrounding his relationship with tennis superstar Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

When the Ulsterman dallied in the clubhouse yesterday afternoon to watch the telecast from Toronto of Wozniacki playing in her Rogers Cup second-round match against Italy's Roberta Vinci, word spread like wildfire.

He then stayed up to date with the match on his iPhone as he played the front nine of the Highlands course with Graeme McDowell, who took great delight in teasing his fellow Ulsterman as they walked down the first fairway.

World No 1 Wozniacki lost the match and is now expected to travel to Atlanta to watch McIlroy battle for a second Major title in eight weeks at the US PGA.

McIlroy set the sporting world ablaze with his record-shattering performance at June's US Open in Congressional, but he still refers to Tiger Woods as "the biggest attraction in the game of golf".

Dismissing suggestions that the end of the Tiger era had been heralded by the emergence of first-time winners at the last six Majors, McIlroy went on: "I don't think there's a new era yet until other guys start to win Majors regularly like Tiger did."

His game might be creaking after recent injuries, but Tiger was too agile yesterday to be pinned down by reporters seeking his reaction to the bizarre outburst by his former caddie Steve Williams in Firestone last Sunday.

Woods revealed he'd sent "a nice text after completion of play" to Williams following Adam Scott's victory at the Bridgestone. When asked if his agent Mark Steinberg had met with the New Zealander on Tuesday, Tiger said simply: "They talked, yeah. You're right."

Tiger declined to say if there'd been any further communication with his ex-bagman. "I think that's between Stevie and myself."

Was he surprised when Williams said so many intemperate things last weekend? "Yeah," replied Woods, nodding. Sometimes silence says a lot more than words!

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