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Rory's McIlroy trump card by playing a round with the President

By Deric Henderson

So Rory McIlroy plays a round of golf with the President of the United States. So what? I know high handicappers, with more money than sense - and there's a few on the North Coast - who'd give their right arm to go 18 holes with the young man from Holywood, who talks more sense than your average MLA.

Donald Trump isn't everybody's favourite. Arrogant. Sexist. Spiteful. Shameless and egotistical. There is no more divisive individual, especially in his home country. Everything his playing partner isn't.

It was Trump's people who lifted the telephone to inquire if Rory was available to tee up in Florida, and no matter his views and opinions - and McIlroy has plenty - he was hardly going to turn down an invitation from the world's most powerful politician.

And remember this was somebody he was already on first name terms with, whom he'd met before, and on the same course which Trump owns. It was here in Miami, in 2015, where Rory fired a club into water in disgust after playing a terrible shot, after which Trump hired a diver to retrieve.

Like all professionals, he displays flashes of temper. But that's McIlroy. He's his own man, and always will be. Charming, witty, charitable, engaging, highly articulate, hugely well informed and lovable.

Trump will have asked him about the stressed rib which has kept him away from the game, and no doubt they had a laugh about that embarrassing incident with the duffed shot at Doral two years ago.

The President will also have asked about his chances of winning The Masters at Augusta in April, but sure as hell, Rory will have inquired if he has plans to return to Doonbeg, Co Clare, where he owns a magnificent stretch of links, at some stage during his term in high office.

And I'd also lay a quiet fiver with McLean Bookmakers that he had a few things to say as well about his Press paranoia, his team inside the White House, and if he needed the name of a contractor - maybe one from Ireland - who might help with some building work along one of America's frontiers which McIlroy will be crossing shortly for his next official engagement on the US PGA Tour.

After they put away the clubs on Sunday, McIlroy joked: "It's quite ironic we're going to Mexico after being at Doral. We'll just jump over the wall."

He guards his privacy well. He has some great pals from North Down whose friendship stretches back to the days when he was at Sullivan Upper. They are among his closest confidants, whose company he treasures, and they'll be close on hand when he marries later this year.

He's isn't afraid to say what he thinks. Unlike others who share the same locker rooms, he doesn't need media advisors. Because that's one of his most powerful characteristics - his free spirit, to come and go as he pleases and to do what he wants, no matter who he might offend.

If it's those who felt he should have declared for Ireland instead of Britain before deciding the Rio Olympics were not for him, or those who worked themselves into a frenzy just because he injured his ankle playing five a side with his mates just before the Open at St Andrews.

Rory's world isn't all about golf, and I don't doubt for a minute that he didn't hesitate for a second when the President's men came calling. That's his nature.

That's why his Foundation, run by Barry Funston, is so special, and why his support for so many charities, especially Daisy Lodge near Newcastle where kids suffering from cancer are treated, means everything. Few sports people reach for their wallet the way McIlroy does.

That's why he's so revered. That's why there will not be a single available ticket about the place when he arrives in Portstewart this summer to defend his Irish Open title.

Social media went into meltdown after his 18 holes with Trump, which included many contributions from keyboard warriors based in this part of the world, and some submitted by individuals who should know better. Nasty and vindictive. But so what?

• Deric Henderson is the former Ireland Editor of the Press Association who runs his own business, Deric Henderson Media.

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