Jack Nicklaus defended Rory McIlroy at the U.S. Senior Open this week. McIlroy has been criticized for comments he made explaining why he wouldn’t be participating in golf’s return to the Olympics, which began today in Rio de Janeiro.
McIlroy told reporters in July that his purpose in playing golf was not to expand the game’s reach, but to win. “I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game,” he said. “I got into golf to win championships and win major championships. “
But McIlroy now has a powerful ally on his side. The Golden Bear said that he felt similarly when he was in the midst of his career. “When I was playing the game, I wasn’t into growing it either,” he said. “Did I play a lot of places? Sure. And by playing a lot of places, that helped to grow the game. But I was there to win, not grow.”
It’s different for Nicklaus now, of course, because he is no longer competing and can choose to focus his energy solely on global outreach for the sport. Nicklaus is still hoping that golf will remain in the Olympics past 2020, so that “a lot of guys and gals will have the opportunity to try for a gold medal. “