Rory McIlroy is often lauded for his candor in meetings with the press, but the quotes that came out of his pre-tournament press conference at Quail Hollow are sure to ruffle some feathers.
Making his first start since his disappointing Sunday at Augusta National last month, much of the question and answer segment centered around his experience post-Masters, how he dealt with missing out on the career grand slam and his best chance to win a major championship in four years.
“The Masters has become the biggest tournament in the world and I’m comfortable saying that,” Rory McIlroy said.
— Rex Hoggard (@RexHoggardGC) May 2, 2018
“I went back home and sort of decompressed, binge-watched a couple of shows, read a couple of books, drank a few bottles of wine,” McIlroy said, clarifying he wasn’t drinking the “few bottles” in one sitting. “No, I don’t mean like that. That sounds really bad, it wasn’t that bad.
“Once I got back in my sort of routine, I was fine. I was disappointed because I just didn’t give a good account of myself the last day.”
What McIlroy said next made its way around the world quickly. Already a winner of the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the Open Championship, McIlroy made an observation about the one major championship that he has yet to conquer that was sure to bother folks in the United Kingdom.
“The Masters has now become the biggest golf tournament in the world, and I’m comfortable saying that,” he said. “It is the biggest tournament in the world — I don’t care about the U.S. Open or the Open Championship — the most amount of eyeballs, the most amount of hype, the most amount of everything is at Augusta.”
McIlroy words read harsher than the context in which he said them, but that’s all that was needed to cause a firestorm. On Thursday, following a first-round 3-under par 68, he clarified what he meant.
“I didn’t mean it like that at all. I sort of was trying to say if you look at where the U.S. Open and the Open were compared to the Masters 50 years ago, they were bigger golf tournaments,” he said, according to Golf.com’s Josh Berhow. “Now I think after everything that’s happened over the past 50 years and the improvements that Augusta makes year on year, I feel like the amount of time between the last major of the season, the first major of the season, the hype, the eyeballs, the everything — it’s just a notch above the other ones. I don’t know if that’s because we return to the same venue every year and there’s a nostalgic feeling for everyone because of that, but that’s what I was trying to say.”
“I’m a proud winner of both (the U.S. Open and the Open Championship). I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful at all. I was just trying to say that from where those tournaments were in stature in this game to where now the Masters is, I feel like the Masters has replaced those two tournaments.”