Rory McIlroy ready to put Trump controversy behind him
The world number three returns to the course this week in Mexico19:32 Tuesday 28 February 2017, 19:32 28 Feb 2017
A week is a long time in politics.
Rory McIlroy has no experience of holding office or being a public representative, but by associating with the leader of the free world, US President Donald Trump, he courted unwanted press attention.
Undoubtedly this must have felt like one of the longest weeks of his life.
In an interview last week with The Guardian's Ewan Murray, McIlroy admitted he found Trump and intriguing character and that he had no interest in his policies.
"I really got into it once Trump ran because I knew him a little bit but at the same time I was intrigued how a successful businessman could transition into running for the highest office in the land," he explained.
"It is a totally different process from the UK. He obviously came at it from a completely different angle.
"I've said it to the man himself; on a Tuesday night at a tournament, if there was a live [political] debate, I would get room service, stick on CNN and just watch. It was pure entertainment, even if you didn’t understand politics it was this complete phenomenon.
"Something like this probably won’t happen again in our lifetime. I’m very attuned to it, I watch a lot of news. You can’t avoid it. I had no interest in politics until a couple of years ago; now I can’t seem to get away from it."
He added: "I’m just interested by the phenomenon of it all. I don’t really care about the policies. The whole circus, this big show is intriguing to watch."
Unsurprisingly, this drew criticism from the outside world and many felt his comments were out of touch with the average person.
Some explanations offered - including on Off The Ball last week - was that in playing a round with Trump, McIlroy was respecting the office of the President.
"I don’t agree with everything my friends or family say or do, but I still play golf with them," McIlroy said in defence of his round.
"Last week I was invited to play golf with the President of the United States. Whether you respect the person who holds the position or not, you respect the office that he holds.
"This wasn’t an endorsement nor a political statement of any kind. It was, quite simply, a round of golf. Golf was our common ground, nothing else.
"To be called a fascist and a bigot by some people because I spent time in someone’s company is ridiculous."
His focus now returns to the golf course this week having recovered from a rib injury which has ruled him out since January.
This Thursday he will take part in the WGC-Mexico Championship teeing off alongside new world number one Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama.
McIlroy can return to the summit of the world golf rankings this week with a win this week at Mexico City's Club de Chapultepec. He'll also need Johnson to share a two-way tie for third or worse than that to skip ahead of both the American and world number two - Australian, Jason Day.
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