Rory McIlroy: I've never liked Roy Keane after he snubbed me for an autograph
Roy Keane has never boasted a shortage of enemies, but the combative Corkman may be surprised to discover that they also number a fellow Irishman who is a Manchester United fan and well known in golf.
Rory McIlroy yesterday revealed that he has held a grudge against Keane ever since he turned him down for an autograph as a child. Still, at least Keane, now the Republic of Ireland's assistant manager, can claim to have assisted in the development of one of the most fan-friendly superstars in all sport.
Last week, a video of McIlroy handing a ball mid-round to an eye-popping boy at the British Masters went viral. And, on the eve of the Dunhill Links Championship, the 28-year-old explained why he takes time out to acknowledge young fans.
"I was sort of surprised how that little moment last week became such a big thing because it's quite a regular occurrence on Tour," McIlroy said. "I must use between six and nine balls a round, and every time I need a new one, I look for a young kid in the crowd in between holes to give it.
"It just shows what such a small thing can mean to a kid. I had it go the other way for me, where I asked someone for an autograph as a kid and they didn't give it to me. And I've never liked them since."
Nobody in the press room thought that McIlroy would tell the assembled journalists the identity of the autograph-snubber, particularly with his manager, Sean O'Flaherty, at the back of room, shaking his head. Yet McIlroy could not resist.
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"It was Roy Keane," McIlroy said. "He should be one of my heroes because I was, and still am, a huge Man United fan. But I remember I went and asked him for his autograph at the Portmarnock Links Hotel (in Dublin) when he was with the Ireland squad and he just said 'no'. And it just sort of stuck with me ever since. So, that's why if a kid asks me for an autograph, I always try to do it."
McIlroy hinted at his dislike of Keane two years ago, when the former midfielder was involved in a spat with Alex Ferguson, a close ally of the golfer's. McIlroy was asked how much he would pay to watch Ferguson and Keane in a ring together. "I'd pay a lot to watch Sir Alex knock him out," McIlroy said.
It will surely be a tasty exchange should McIlroy and Keane ever come face to face although, for now, the four-time Major winner must be content with squaring up to his European Tour rivals, who will be out to stop him ending 2017 on a winning note. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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