Rory McIlroy glad to be wrong about Olympic success ahead of FedEx Cup play-offs

The world number five was pleasantly surprised by the impact golf had in Rio, while Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson are already targeting Tokyo in 2020

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 5:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 10:12pm

Rory McIlroy didn’t watch much of golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years.

What he did see, however, made an impact.

“It was nice to be proven wrong somewhat in terms of, like I thought golf was sort of going to get lost a little bit,” McIlroy said at Bethpage Black ahead of The Barclays, the first of four postseason events in the FedEx Cup play-offs.

Amid much criticism, McIlroy was one of the world’s top-four golfers at the time who opted not to play in the Rio Olympics, along with Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson.

For various reasons, from health concerns including the Zika virus to security fears to travel and scheduling issues, the elite foursome didn’t head to Brazil for the Games.

“It pleasantly surprised me,” said McIlroy, who watched the conclusion of Justin Rose’s gold medal-winning duel against Henrik Stenson.

“There were more people at the golf events than there was at the athletics. It was good to see, it really was. It seems like it was a great atmosphere down there.

“Obviously it was well supported, and I think Justin was a great winner. To see the crowds and see the turnout, I was glad to be somewhat proven wrong.”

It wasn’t easy for Spieth to watch the Games. From the opening to the closing ceremonies, his TV watching was full of regret.

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“At the time I made the decision, it was the right decision for me. And I told you guys in that press conference, it was the hardest thing I’ve had to do,” he said.

“The potential for regret was going to be there and it certainly was while I was watching, so that’s why I tweeted out, ‘I’m looking forward to setting it as a goal to be there in 2020’. ”

A lot got to Spieth.

“The passion that everyone was displaying; the videos I was getting from Rickie (Fowler) of all the guys and just how much fun everybody was having on and off the golf course,” he said.

“The golf course was beautiful, and then the Olympic glory at the end of it. The combination of just about everything.”

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World No 1 Day, on the other hand, watched one hole and not much of anything else in the Olympics. He liked what he saw but has no regrets about not going.

“The decision was the decision. It was based on family and you don’t have any regrets whenever you base obviously your stance on something bigger than yourself, and it was for me and my family,” said Day, who leads the FedEx Cup points race.

“I think after seeing how everything kind of unfolded in Rio with how the golf was played, I think it was well received amongst the world, actually. … I guess there’s a lot more fans that can actually watch golf now that have never really watched it before, just because it’s in the Olympics. I’m looking forward to Tokyo. If I can play my way on to that team that would be great.”

Olympics golf? I probably won’t even watch it on TV, scoffs Rory McIlroy

Johnson’s eyeing Tokyo, too.

“I’d like to have been there for sure. Playing the Olympics, that wasn’t the issue for me. I wanted to go play. I wanted to go represent my country. I like doing that,” Johnson said.

“But to me the risk wasn’t worth it.”