The four-time majors winner faced an onslaught of criticism online after he accepted Trump’s invitation to join him in West Palm Beach, Fla., last weekend, where he noted after their round that the president was “a decent player for a guy in his 70s.”
The pair was joined for 18 holes by Nick Mullen, a sports agent, and Rich Levine, a Trump friend.
Within minutes after a photo of the foursome was posted online, McIlroy began receiving hundreds of negative responses from his fans. Some expressed sadness over McIlroy’s decision, while others appeared much more angry. Some accused McIlroy of being a “fascist” and a “bigot,” two terms the golfer rejected in his essay posted to Twitter on Friday.
“I’ve traveled all over the world and have been fortunate enough to befriend people from many different countries, beliefs and cultures,” he wrote. “To be called a fascist and a bigot by some people just for spending time in someone’s company is ridiculous.”
McIlroy added: “Golf was our common ground, nothing else.”
Responses to McIlroy’s explanation varied, with many fans still challenging his decision.
McIlroy, however, appears eager to move on. He ended his post on Friday by noting he was looking forward to returning to the pro golf circuit next month at the WGC-Mexico Championship. Scheduled to run from March 2-5 at Club de Golf Chapultepec just west of Mexico City, it will be McIlroy’s first foray back into competitive play since having a stress fracture in his ribs diagnosed in January. The world No. 3 was last seen playing on Jan. 15, when Graeme Storm edged McIlroy out during a playoff at the South African Open.
“Thanks to everyone for your continued support and I look forward to making my comeback in Mexico next week!” McIlroy said Friday.