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It was just a game of golf. Rory McIlroy comes out swinging after his round with Trump

By Chris McCullough

Golfing ace Rory McIlroy last night hit out at critics who attacked him for playing golf with controversial US President Donald Trump.

McIlroy defended his decision to engage with President Trump, and lashed out at those who'd called him a 'fascist' and a 'bigot' for doing so.

"Last week, I was invited to play golf with the President of the United States", the former world No 1 tweeted.

"Whether you respect the person who holds that position or not, you respect the office that he holds," the golfer wrote.

"This wasn't an endorsement nor a political statement of any kind.

"It was, quite simply, a round of golf.

"Golf was our common ground, nothing else.

"I've travelled all over the world and have been fortunate enough to befriend people from many different countries. beliefs and cultures."

He slammed the abuse he had received as "ridiculous".

"To be called a fascist and a bigot by some people because I spent time in someone's company is just ridiculous," he wrote.

"I hope, to some degree, this clarifies my decision to accept the invitation that was extended to me."

And in a cheery sign-off aimed at his fans, the world-famous sportsman added: "Thanks to everyone for your continued support, and I look forward to making my comeback in Mexico next week."

In an newspaper interview earlier this week, Rory had opened up about his interest in US politics, admitting to being 'massively' interested in the US political scene - even though he was never interested in politics in Northern Ireland.

The Holywood native, who is now resident in Florida, spoke about his new-found interest in the 'phenomenon' of US politics, saying: 'the whole circus, this big show is intriguing to watch.'

His forthright Twitter comments last night follow a wave of criticism he received after accepting an invitation from President Trump to play a round of golf at the Trump International in Florida.

The US President is also a huge golfing fanatic and owns several plush courses around the world. He was delighted to get a chance to tee-off alongside the former world number one.

Speaking about his admiration for the president, Rory said: "I really got into it once Trump ran because I knew him a little bit but at the same time, I was intrigued how a successful businessman could transition into running for the highest office in the land.

"It is a totally different process from the UK. He obviously came at it from a completely different angle; I've said it to the man himself.

On a Tuesday night at a tournament, if there was a live [political] debate, I would get room service, stick on CNN and just watch.

"It was pure entertainment, even if you didn't understand politics, it was this complete phenomenon. Something like this probably won't happen again in our lifetime. I'm very attuned to it," he said.

Rory watches lots of news.

"You can't avoid it. I had no interest in politics until a couple of years ago; now I can't seem to get away from it.

"I feel like I've stayed unpolitical in terms of Northern Ireland and all that goes on there but because I'm not an American I don't feel a real part of it; I'm just interested by the phenomenon of it all. I don't really care about the policies. The whole circus, this big show is intriguing to watch," he said.

McIlroy admitted that golf does not consume his life and that he expects some changes to come once he gets married to fiancee Erica Stoll.

"I'm a golfer, but golf doesn't consume me," he said. "It's a big part of my life, but not all of it. I have other things that I'm interested in and passionate about."

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