Paul McGinley is a firm believer that the recent controversy surrounding Rory McIlroy’s round of golf with President Donald Trump won’t help the Ulsterman prepare for the Masters.
McIlroy teed it up with Trump two weeks ago in Florida, but faced a strong backlash of criticism for it. He ultimately decided to tweet a lengthy explanation that the round was not a “political statement,” and again answered questions about it this week prior to his return to competition at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
McGinley captained McIlroy at the 2014 Ryder Cup, and he told the Irish Golf Desk that this could serve as an added distraction at an inopportune time for McIlroy, with the Masters only a few weeks away.
“I think Rory was caught unawares. A lot of us have been surprised by the reaction being so strongly negative against him,” McGinley said. “I’d like to see the fire die down as quickly as possible because I want to see him getting back to getting focused, getting back from his injury, getting some tournaments under his belt and trying to join the only five people in the world that have ever achieved the (career) Grand Slam.
“He’s right on the threshold of that. He doesn’t need this noise at this moment in time.”
McGinley believes other notable golfers have received less criticism for their associations with Trump than has McIlroy, namely Jack Nicklaus – who explained his vote for Trump – and Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, both of whom played golf with Trump after the election.
“He was in a no-win situation, and that’s the problem. When you get asked by the President of the United States to go play a game of golf, it’s very hard to say no,” McGinley said. “If he hadn’t played, he would have been taking a very strong political position, which would have created a lot of furor in the other direction.”