On Tuesday, while at Augusta National in preparation for this week’s Masters, McIlroy was asked again about agreeing to golf with the president.
“Would I do it again? After the sort of backlash I received, I’d think twice about it,” he replied.
“I felt I would have been making more of a statement if I had turned it down,” McIlroy, 27, said at a news conference. “It’s not a tough place to be put in, but it was a round of golf and nothing more.”
A reporter brought up comments McIlroy made in March, when he blasted as “obscene” the reluctance of Scotland’s Muirfield Golf Club to admit women. “We’ll go back there for the [British] Open Championship at some point, and I won’t be having many cups of tea with the members afterwards,” he said at the time.
When asked Tuesday why he was so opposed to keeping company with Muirfield members but apparently fine with golfing with the polarizing Trump, McIlroy said (via USA Today) he thought that the Edinburgh-based golf club “and the office of the president of the United States are two completely different things.”
“I’ve spent time in President Trump’s company before, and that does not mean that I agree with everything that he says,” McIlroy continued. “Actually the opposite.”
In his Twitter post, McIlroy had said, “Whether you respect the person who holds that position [of president] or not, you respect the office that he holds.”
Greg Norman recently echoed that language while discussing an occasion years ago, when then-president Bill Clinton requested to play a round with him in Australia. Norman, who has conservative political views, expressed some misgivings about the request to former president George H.W. Bush, but “41” told him, “Greg, just let me tell you, respect the position of the president of the United States — you go play golf with the president.”
Norman claimed that criticism had been “wrongly” directed at McIlroy, “because if the president of the United States asks you to go play golf, you go. … It’s just as simple as that.”
“Whenever an invitation or a request comes my way, I don’t want to say I jump at the chance, but at the same time, you know, to see the Secret Service, to see the scene, I mean, that’s really what I was going for,” McIlroy said Tuesday. “I mean, there was not one bit of politics discussed in that round of golf. He was more interested talking about the grass that he just put on the greens.
“But, yeah, look — it’s a difficult one.”