Ostensibly, he was talking to a posse of reporters. You couldn’t help wondering, though, if Rory McIlroy was really talking to himself.
When asked if he was “trying too hard” to win another major, the Co Down man replied: “Not at all, I’ve got four of them. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I get to do what I love for a living. I have a beautiful family. My life is absolutely perfect at the minute. I want for nothing.”
The 32-year-old’s face, however, was telling a different story.
True, he has a lifestyle only the filthy rich and lottery winners would recognise; a reported £87m in the bank, an £8.5m mansion in Florida, legions of eternally-adoring fans, a benign, supportive media cohort following him and of course that beautiful family he referred to at Royal St George’s two Fridays ago.
Yep, this is the guy with everything, so why did he look so damn miserable when telling us about it?
Could it be the golf, or rather his outrageous talent in that particular sport, that got him all this in the first place?
And if that part of your life — a major, major part, if you’ll excuse the pun — is not making you happy, can all those other enviable things fully compensate?
It was clear that the Holywood native’s mood hadn’t improved by the time he was asked about how it would feel to represent Ireland at the Olympics.
The reply: “I’m not a very patriotic guy. I am doing it because I think it is the right thing to do, and I missed it last time.
“For golf to be an Olympic sport you need your best players there and I want to represent the game of golf more than anything else…”
As rousing pre-battle speeches go, this is unlikely to challenge Rory’s compatriot Colonel Tim Collins (Kuwait, 2003) or fellow celt William Wallace (Stirling Bridge, 1297).
Indeed, when you consider what the Games mean to so many other competitors, Rory may well go down as arguably the most reluctant Olympian in history.
He’s also, however, the most likely of the Northern Ireland-born competitors to bring back a gold medal from Tokyo.
Admittedly, his recent excursion to Europe brought little joy (T59 in the Irish Open, missing the cut at the Scottish, T46 at Sandwich), but Rory is still one of the best golfers in the world, although he has slipped to a lowly (by his standards) 15 in the rankings.
Don’t forget that it was only last year he became only the third golfer in history to chalk up more than 100 weeks at No. 1, behind Tiger Woods and Greg Norman (Dustin Johnson has since turned that illustrious trio into a quartet).
I’m not sure, though, that being top of the rankings, or landing a tournament like the Wells Fargo, which he won in May, means that much to Rory.
Kudos, yes — and Olympic success would no doubt bring something similar — but world-class golfers measure themselves by major championships.
And by the time McIlroy steps out at Augusta for the Masters next April — and another attempt at completing the career grand slam — it will be almost eight years since he last won one.
Over those barren years there has been a perceptive change, from expectation to hope; we used to wonder when the former boy wonder would end his ‘Masters hoodoo’, now we merely muse about whether he has another major in him, period.
Save for a couple of media encounters, I don’t know the guy personally, but some people who have suggested that he might be a little too content in his private life these days to remain a genuine ‘contender’.
They point to those halcyon days of 2014, when the then 25-year-old won the Open at Hoylake and the PGA at Valhalla — having just called off his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
And McIlroy has proved in the past that he can be unemotional where the trajectory of his golf career is concerned as, among others, long-time caddie JP Fitzgerald can confirm.
I doubt, however, that he holds his idyllic life with wife Erica and baby daughter Poppy Kennedy in West Palm Beach responsible for his current majors drought.
On the front nine on day three of the 149th Open, when the Rory of old was thrilling the huge crowd with a devastating birdie blitz in glorious sun-shine, you were left thinking, ‘how on earth has this guy not won one of the biggies since 2014?’
Then, after a chaotic back nine: ‘scrub that; now I know why he hasn’t’.
It’s like that sad old Seventies ‘Irishman joke’ about Mick checking to see if Paddy’s car indicator is working; “yes it is… no it isn’t… yes it is…”
He cares too much, he doesn’t care enough; he’s trying too hard, he’s not trying at all; is he really indifferent, or merely pretending to be?
Based on those wildly fluctuating assumptions, Rory was clearly trying his socks off at the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines when he finished seventh, and couldn’t be arsed at the Masters when he missed the cut.
And, having finished well down the field in both the US PGA at Kiawah Island (where he won at 2012) and Open, he was merely being indifferent.
Thing is, we don’t really know. Does he?
Just as I would hesitate to put Olympic glory past Rory this week, neither would I discount his chances of bagging at least one more major.
After all, didn’t a deeply troubled Tiger do it after an 11-year gap? Didn’t Phil Mickelson with his sixth major earlier this year aged 50, eight years after his fifth? Didn’t Sergio Garcia finally land one at his 74th attempt, five years older than Rory is now?
I don’t blame him for the ‘patriotism’ remark, which is probably the legacy of a sectarian tug-of-war he didn’t invite and which has irked him for years.
Ergo, ‘Irish’ people shouldn’t take it as a snub and I suspect that, by the time he makes it onto the fairways of Kasumigaseki Country Club alongside ‘Team Ireland’ team-mates Shane Lowry, Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow, his apparent apathy about representing ‘his country’ will surely have disappeared.
(Incidentally, when he reaches 45, Rory will have spent more of his life in the US than he did in Northern Ireland…)
Being the consummate professional that he is — and unlike the vast majority of other wide-eyed Olympians who regard Tokyo as “the ultimate” — he’ll no doubt use the Games as a potential springboard for improved form with the WGC and Ryder Cup looming.
Meanwhile, ‘Team Rory’ didn’t do the side any favours on social media after posting a picture of the £80,000 X7 that BMW had given him for road trips, alongside the private jet returning him to the States.
Whatever the intention was, it lacked the humility normally associated with McIlroy (as his Twitter profile modestly states, “I hit a little white ball around a field sometimes”), while hinting at rather uncharacteristic self-congratulation.
Moreover, it seemed ironically timed, considering his indifferent displays at Kilkenny, Berwick and Sandwich prior to boarding that fabulous Gulf-stream G550.
It reminded me of England defender Jolean Lescott’s remarkable lack of self-awareness in 2016, when he tweeted a picture of his new £122,000 Mercedes sports car shortly after he and his Aston Villa team-mates had been thrashed 6-0 at home by Liverpool.
Rory’s post generated some predictable responses from devotees — “nice wheels, mate” and “you deserve it” — but some of the other replies were unrepeatable.
The more charitable ones included: “Try learning how to play golf and not brag about what car you got to drive round in”, “You were hungry when you were starting and poor, now you’re full and not interested” and “Such a corporate flog these days” (‘flog’ is an Australian slang word meaning ‘pretentious, conceited or foolish’).
Telling folk that you’re “the luckiest guy in the world” is one thing. Shoving it in their faces is quite another.