Rory McIlroy taken aback by backlash to round of golf with Donald Trump
Rory McIlroy admits he did not expect the backlash he received for his round of golf with United States President Donald Trump.
McIlroy, who will make his return from injury at this week's WGC-Mexico Championship, was quizzed during a press conference in Mexico City about his round of golf with the President at Trump International in Florida.
The Northern Irishman had posted a statement on Twitter defending his decision and claimed he had been branded "a fascist and a bigot" for associating with the 45th President of the USA, who divides opinion in his homeland.
McIlroy offered another apology on Tuesday and stressed his decision to play the round had nothing to do with politics.
"I was a little bit taken aback by the blowback I received but I get why," McIlroy said in a press conference streamed on PGA Tour's Facebook page.
" I was just doing what I felt was respectful. The President of the United States phones you up and wants to play golf with you, I wasn't going to say no.
"I don't agree with everything he says but it is what it is. I'm not an American. I can't vote. Even if I could vote I don't think I would have.
"I actually enjoyed myself. I had a good time. I'm sorry if I p***** people off but I felt I was in a position where I couldn't really do anything but say yes. Respect the office even if you don't respect the guy that's in it.
"I just approached it as a round of golf. Putting anyone's beliefs or politics to one side for a minute, to go there and see 30 secret service and 30 cops and snipers in the trees, it was just a surreal experience for me to see something like that.
"It's not as if we were talking foreign policy out there. We were talking golf."
McIlroy makes his return in Mexico having sat out seven weeks with a rib injury.
But the 27-year-old feels he is back to full fitness after a frustrating spell on the sidelines.
"I feel like I'm probably stronger now than I was in November, December last year. Hopefully (the injury was) a blessing in disguise," McIlroy said.
"It's been tough to miss all these weeks especially with DJ (Dustin Johnson) winning, Jordan (Spieth) winning, Rickie (Fowler) winning, Hideki (Matsuyama) winning, Justin (Thomas) winning.
"It's been a really great group of guys that have won the last few weeks and it's been a little tough for me. Even though most of those guys are my friends, it's tough to be sitting at home watching those guys doing what they're doing whenever you can't get out there."
Johnson replaced Jason Day as world number one in February with victory at the Genesis Open but McIlroy will take top spot with a win in Mexico if Johnson finishes in a two-way tie for third or worse.
McIlroy insists a return to the top of the rankings is not a priority as he makes his comeback, but is excited to be back in the running.
"I don't think we make too big a deal of it," he said.
"It's not as if I earn any more money as the world number one, it's just nice to be able to say you're the best in the world at what you do.
"It's nice to have a chance and be in the conversation at least. I know if I play well the weeks that I play, that I'll have a chance to get back there."