Golf’s long-awaited return to the Olympic Games has endured its share of jabs and uppercuts.
On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy delivered a body blow.
“I’ll probably watch the Olympics,” said McIlroy, who announced last month that he would not compete in Rio. “But I’m not sure golf will be one of the events I watch.”
Which events will have his attention? Track and field, swimming, diving.
“The stuff that matters,” McIlroy said.
Somewhere Peter Dawson and Ty Votaw were grimacing.
Jordan Spieth said on Tuesday that he agonized over his decision to sit out the Games. “Probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life,” he said.
Not so much for McIlroy, who said he bowed out because of concerns about the Zika virus.
“Honestly, I don’t think it was as difficult a decision for me as it was for [Spieth],” McIlroy said. “I don’t feel like I’ve let the game down at all. I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win major championships. … I didn’t get into golf to get other people into the game.”
Not exactly a script for a USGA commercial.
McIlroy wasn’t the only player this week to offer a less-than-glowing endorsement of golf’s first appearance in the Games since 1904. Zach Johnson, the defending Open champion, also took a dig.
“I don’t know if golf has its place in the Olympics now,” Johnson said during his Monday press conference. “We are relevant 24/7, 365 days of the year, if that’s your barometer and criteria, relevancy. I think golf fans really look forward to the majors.”
One of those majors is just two days from commencing, on the rumpled linksland of Royal Troon.
Rory McIlroy tees off at 4:36 a.m. ET Thursday in search of his first major title since the 2014 PGA Championship. His playing partners include Olympian Bubba Watson and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who also declined his Rio invite.