Golf star Rory McIlroy accused President Trump of politicizing the COVID-19 pandemic while saying he wouldn’t play another round of golf with the president, adding he doubts he would even be invited after questioning his leadership.
The pair asked McIlroy, the world’s No. 1 ranked player, whether he regretted playing a round of golf with Trump after his inauguration three years ago because of the criticism he received. At the time, McIlroy defended the move, saying it was not an endorsement or political act.
“I haven’t done it since … out of choice,” McIlroy said.
Mcllroy played with Trump in February 2017 at the Trump International golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla. He said he did so out of respect for the office of the presidency. He added that he enjoyed the day and that Trump was charismatic, personable and treated everyone well.
Dustin Johnson of the United States, left, and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland talk on the 10th fairway during the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship golf tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
“So I will sit here and say that day I had with him I enjoyed,” McIlroy said. “But that doesn’t mean I agree with everything — or, in fact, anything — that he says.”
However, Mcllroy, who is from Northern Ireland, also criticized Trump for his response to the coronavirus crisis.
“Like it’s a contest,” he said of Trump’s claim that the U.S. has administered more tests than any other nation. “We’re in the midst of something that’s pretty serious right now and the fact that he’s trying to politicize it and make it a campaign rally. There’s some stuff that just is terrible. It’s not the way a leader should act. There is a bit of diplomacy that you need to show, and I just don’t think he’s showing that, especially in these times.”
The pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 86,000 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Following his comments, Mcllroy said he doubts Trump would want to play with him after his criticism.
“I don’t know if he’d want to play with me again after what I just said,” he said. “I know it’s very self-serving of me to say ‘No,’ and if I don’t, then it means I’m not putting myself in position to be under scrutiny and that I’m avoiding that.
“But no, I wouldn’t.”
The PGA Tour has halted play amid the pandemic. Mcllroy will team up with Dustin Johnson in a Skins match against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in an exhibition designed to raise upward of $4 million for the American Nurses Foundation and CDC Foundation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.