Golf star Rory McIlroy found himself bunkered down amid a barrage of complaints on Monday after it emerged he’d played a round of golf with Donald Trump.
The world number three was resting up a stress fracture on one of his ribs when he was invited to play the president at Trump International Golf Club in Florida on Sunday morning.
But while it may have seemed like a great chance to rub shoulders with the world’s most powerful man, the Northern Irish player’s decision has upset many of his fans.
Controversy: Donald Trump and top golfer Rory McIlroy (both center) are seen at their golf game in Trump International, Florida, on Sunday. Former Yankee player Paul O’Neill (right) and Clear Sports CEO Garry Singer (left) were at the course but didn’t play with them
Politics: This Irish politician was shocked by the Northern Irish golfer’s decision, as he had previously declined to choose a side between the UK and the Republic of Ireland
Error: This Irish sports broadcaster said that McIlroy had made a ‘massive error of judgement’ in not just saying he was too hurt to play. McIlroy is to return to golf properly next week
McIlroy got a call from the White House on Saturday asking if he would be good to play on Sunday. His primary residence is in Jupiter, Florida, around half an hour’s drive from Trump International.
Despite plans to rest his rib – which he injured playing Graeme Storm in the South African Open in January – another week, he agreed.
And so he joined the president for a round of golf, also riding with him in the cart around all 18 holes, according to golf site No Laying Up.
A photo from the day shows both men grinning alongside former Yankee Paul O’Neill and Clear Sports CEO Garry Singer, although they were not a part of the group.
McIlroy’s decision shocked followers of the mostly apolitical Northern Irish player, who ducked out of the Olympics rather than choose between playing for the Republic of Ireland or the UK.
Irish politician Dermot Looney wrote: ‘I’ve no problem with @McIlroyRory choosing to stay out of Northern politics. But playing in his free time with Trump *IS* a political choice.’
And Nathan Murphy, a soccer commentator and broadcaster on Irish radio station Newstalk said he was ‘Pretty shocked that Rory agreed to play with Trump.
‘He’s injured, he had a perfect excuse to dodge it,’ Murphy said. ‘Massive error of judgement.’
‘Fascist’: Many Twitter users were vehemently against the pairing, such as this user, who decried Trump as a ‘fascist’ and blamed McIlroy’s sponsors
‘Supremacist’: This Twitter user appeared to be blaming McIlroy for playing alongside what they consider a ‘white supremacist’
Competitor : Rory McIlroy last played competitively in January. He said Trump was ‘decent’ at golf for ‘a guy over 70’
Others were appalled by the golfer choosing to be seen alongside a president that they deemed a ‘fascist’.
Tom Richards messaged the player, asking ‘so olympics=no, but playing a round with fascist @realDonaldTrump is fine if your sponsors say so? Great decision making.’
A user named Meeche simply said ‘So white supremacist much Rory?’ ‘
And journalist Fachtna Ó Ceallaigh wisecracked: ‘Idea for a TV program: “Tee with Tyrants”. Rory McIlroy travels the world playing golf with various despots.’
Not everyone was outraged, however. Tony Darby enthusiastically remarked: ‘Gained some respect for Rory seeing this. Make America Great Again!’
McIlroy’s decision to be pictured alongside Trump also flies in the faces of golf’s most influential organizations, which had distanced themselves from the president.
After he expressed controversial views on Mexican immigrants in his election campaign in 2015, The Grand Slam of Golf was moved from Trump National in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the PGA Tour considered alternative venues for the WGC-Cadillac Championship after his call for a ‘total and complete’ ban on Muslims entering America.
It was eventually moved from Trump National Doral to Mexico City, and was renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.
After the match with Trump, McIlroy, a four-time major winner said Trump ‘probably shot around 80,’ adding: ‘He’s a decent player for a guy in his 70s.’
Joke: This Irish journalist mocked Trump as a ‘despot’ and ‘tyrant’, and implied that McIlroy had made a grievous error. The golfer had previously dodged questions about the US election
Respect: Not everyone was against the golfer’s decision to play with Trump – this user said he ‘gained some respect’ for McIlroy
Easy, Tiger! Trump also met up with Tiger Woods (also seen: Trump’s granddaughter, Kai) on Dec 23 at the Trump International
McIlrot wasn’t the only one in hot water after the game – Trump also came under criticism for the march.
Late Sunday afternoon, White House press aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that on Sunday Trump had played ‘a couple of holes’.
Today’s report of Trump playing all 18 holes while McIlroy watched – which was confirmed by McIlroy’s spokesperson – suggests that was untrue.
Not that the president is forbidden from playing golf.
But as The Huffington Post points out, Trump has spent eight of his first 30 days in office in Florida – and six days playing golf.
And Trump had critcized Barack Obama for playing golf during his administration, calling him ‘worse than Carter’.
He also said at a rally in Manchester in November that he might continue playing golf, but would ‘always play with leaders of countries and people who can help us.’
Unbelievable: Trump complained in October 2014 that Barack Obama was ‘worse than Carter’ for playing golf. Trump has spent six of his 30 days in office on the golf course
Last year McIlroy dodged a question about the presidential campaign’s effects on the golf world when he simply said ‘I’m not American,’ Golf.com reported.
‘Look, I can’t vote,’ he said. ‘And if I were to vote, I’m not sure I would want to vote for any of the candidates.’
McIlroy has targeted next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship for his comeback.
The PGA Tour had a contract to hold the WGC event at Doral until 2023, but with the provision that a new title sponsor would have the right to take the tournament elsewhere. Cadillac’s sponsorship ended in 2016.
Speaking last June, shortly after Trump had kicked off his presidential campaign by revealing controversial plans to build a border wall between Mexico and the United States, McIlroy joked: ‘It’s quite ironic we’re going to Mexico after being at Doral. We’ll just jump over the wall.’
McIlroy told No Laying Up that the four-ball game between McIlroy and Trump was rounded out by Nick Mullen from International Sports Management and Rich Levine, a friend of the president.
McIlroy had previously attended a White House function with Barack Obama in 2012.
He tweeted at the time: ‘Unbelievable experience at the White House last night! Big thanks to @BarackObama for the invite! We’ll get that golf swing sorted soon!’
‘Unbelievable’: McIlroy met Barack Obama in the White House in 2012, then posted this tweet in which he thanked the former president for an ‘unbelievable experience’