Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Rory McIlroy stands firm on Twitter rant

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy can set The Irish Open ablaze with his golf this weekend, but he was in equally fiery form off the Killeen Course yesterday, launching another blistering broadside at the TV pundit who'd rubbished his caddie, JP Fitzgerald, on Twitter.

McIlroy shook-off Thursday's cobwebs with a sweet second round 68, which put him well into contention going into the weekend in Killarney ... yet the Holywood star had no intention of putting his furious bust-up with Jay Townsend behind him.

Insisting he'd no regrets about a dispute which went viral on the internet, TV and in newspapers on either side of the Atlantic, McIlroy once again made plain his fury at the former European Tour journeyman Townsend, a commentator with BBC Radio and Golf Channel.

"I really don't have any respect for the man after what he did or what he has done the last three years," said McIlroy, adding Townsend has been critical of his caddie and their course management since September 2008.

"It's unfortunate some people are so opinionated," he went on. "A lot of people have mentioned it to me over the past few years and (Thursday) was just one comment too far and I thought I had to stand up for JP, who is one of my closest friends.

"I don't know what it is about Jay or if he has something against JP, but some of his criticism is very unfair. I don't care if he criticises me because I'm the golfer, I'm the one that hits the shots and I can take it ... but JP can't stand up for himself in the media.

"I have to stand up for JP because he is the best man I think I can have on my bag. He has taken me from 200th in the world to Major Champion and now fourth in the world; I was third at one stage. Just to have constant criticism like that all the time, I mean, it's hard work."

This cogent argument and the measured tone of McIlroy's remarks yesterday are in stark contrast to the retaliatory Tweet he'd sent Townsend on Thursday, telling the American to: "shut up ... You're a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!"

No question, Townsend went over the top by tweeting that Fitzgerald had "allowed some SHOCKING course management" during the first round. Describing it as "the worst I have seen beyond under-10 boys golf", he suggested McIlroy should hire Tiger's ex-caddie, Steve Williams, instead.

Yet if McIlroy had taken more time to consider his response, considerable controversy would have been avoided and he'd not have endured the damage to his reputation which his rush to retaliation inevitably caused, especially in the USA.

He claimed yesterday that Townsend "can't really say anything about my game - I know he was on tour for six years (in fact it was nine) and he finished second in the Heineken Classic or whatever it was, but he doesn't need to be that opinionated and be that strong in his views."

In fact, Townsend is paid to be opinionated and if McIlroy's profile continues to rise at its current rate, he's going to face criticism from many, many more pundits in future. For his own good, he must learn to handle it better and consider his options more carefully.

McIlroy discussed this matter overnight with "a few people, Chubby (Chandler, his agent), Stuart (Cage, his manager), my mum and dad". While he replied "no, not at all" when asked if this week's controversy might put him off Twitter, one hopes those whose opinion he respects can persuade McIlroy to use it more wisely.

The Irish Open has reason to be thankful that McIlroy's golf was unaffected as the Ulsterman and his predecessor as US Open Champion, Graeme McDowell, effectively rescued this year's event with yesterday's spirited charge up the leaderboard.

As Open hero Darren Clarke and three-times Major champion Padraig Harrington missed the cut, there had been concern around lunchtime yesterday that all four headliners in Killarney might not make it through to the weekend, with potentially disastrous consequences for attendance figures today and tomorrow.

Yet those fears were dispelled as McDowell, inspired by birdies on the opening two holes of his second round, posted a spirited second round 66 to join McIlroy on four-under par, just six shots off the lead of Germany's Marcel Siem, who sped to 10-under with two rounds of 66.

As high-flying amateur Paul Cutler was joined on six-under par by seasoned Tour-winners Michael Hoey, Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie, the home nation could brace itself for one of the most exciting Irish Open climaxes in many years.

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