The one refuge for Donald Trump over the course of his disastrous presidency has been the golf course, and he’s taken to it often. But he now finds himself down a playing partner, as Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 golfer in the world, wants nothing to do with Trump anymore.
Appearing on the McKellar Golf Podcast, the four-time major champion slammed the way Trump has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re in the midst of something that’s pretty serious right now and the fact that he’s trying to politicize it and make it a campaign rally and say we’re administering the most tests in the world like it is a contest — there’s something that is just terrible,” McIlroy said. “It’s not the way a leader should act. There’s a sort of diplomacy that you need to have, and I don’t think he’s showing that, especially in these times.”
That criticism from the Northern Irishman seems plain enough, but it’s still rare for pro golfers to voice any kind of negative opinion of Trump. Even when granted anonymity, as in a 2018 Golf Magazine survey of tour pros, 42% said they planned to vote for Trump this year, down from 56% who did vote for him in 2016, but still well above the 20% who planned not to vote for his re-election, with the rest ineligible, undecided, or determined not to vote.
Weeks ago, GOP supporters of Trump tried to use the excuse that his impeachment hearings prevented him from taking effective action to deal with the coronavirus threat, but just like his attempts to blame Obama, China, Democratic governors and hospital workers stealing equipment, it doesn’t pass the sniff test. Trump’s impeachment trial concluded on Feb. 5 and he made six golf trips between Jan. 18 and March 8.
Thanks in part to Trump’s failure to lead an effective containment of COVID-19, all three major championships in the United States have been postponed until the fall, and courses across the country have endured closures, with most now able to reopen, as golf is one sport where it’s possible to practice social distancing.
McIlroy, who would have been playing the PGA Championship this weekend in California had the pandemic not struck and been completely mishandled by Trump, instead is playing a two-team skins challenge on Sunday in Florida with Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff.
Three years ago, McIlroy was on the course with Trump, but now says that’s not going to happen again.
“I don’t know if he’d want to play with me again after what I just said, but I wouldn’t,” McIlroy said. “I felt I would have been making more of a statement if I had turned it down (in 2017). It was a round of golf and nothing more.”
It would indeed have been making a statement: a statement that should have been made from the start, and one that athletes like Stephen Curry were courageous enough to make then. Surely there would have been more backlash in the golf world to McIlroy turning down Trump than there was to Curry in the NBA, where LeBron James famously backed him up with the “U bum” tweet, but better late than never. Right, Tiger?