Mexico City - Rory McIlroy on Tuesday defended his recent
round of golf with US President Donald Trump as he prepared for this week's
The Northern Ireland star said he was taken aback by the
scale of the criticism he had received for his round with Trump, insisting he
had put politics to one side for the occasion.
McIlroy had already addressed the issue in a statement last
week following criticism but faced renewed questioning on Tuesday ahead of this
week's event at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
"I just approached it, as I said in my statement, as a
round of golf," McIlroy said.
"Anyone's beliefs or politics or whatever, just put
that to one side for a minute. To go there and see 30 secret service and 30
cops and snipers in the trees, it's just - I mean, it was just a surreal
experience for me to see something like that. That was part of the reason I
wanted to go and play.
"If it had been Obama I would have gone to play. I've
played golf with President Clinton, I've spent time with President Bush ... I
just wanted to have an experience that I might not ever get (again); play golf
with a sitting president.
"You can respect the guy, not respect the guy, I don't
care, but if someone has a chance to play in that scenario and just sort of
experience the whole thing," added McIlroy who said he had spent the round
talking golf with Trump.
"I think he was happier to talk golf than anything else
that he has to do these days," McIlroy said, adding that he understood the
criticism about being associated with Trump.
"I get the divisive rhetoric and everything that was
said. It's a tough place to be in, a tough position. Maybe if I look back on
it, I put myself in a position where I was going to get that from either side,
one way or the other.
"I just felt I was doing what was respectful, and the
president of the United States phones you up and wants to play golf with you, I
wasn't going to say no. I'm sorry if I sort of, I don't know, pissed people
off. But I felt I was in a position where I couldn't really do anything but say
McIlroy is making his first appearance in seven weeks after
suffering a fractured rib. McIlroy, who last played in the South African Open
in January, has missed tournaments in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Los Angeles and Florida
in the weeks since.
McIlroy said he expected this week's field would find it
tricky adapting to the thin air of Mexico City, where the course venue is
around 7,600 feet above sea level, a factor likely to complicate club
"Judging distances is going to be really tough,"
"I was hitting eight irons today 210 yards. It's so hard to get used to and trust in your mind that that club is going to hit the ball that far."