Rory McIlroy has spoken for the first time about ripping up his shirt in anger after an unlucky ricochet off the flagstick in the final round of the DP World Tour Championship.
It was a horrific break that sparked the end of McIlroy’s challenge as he unravelled to finish in sixth place finish behind Collin Morikawa, who can briefly go to World No 1 this week with a win at the Hero World Challenge in The Bahamas.
Right from the offset of McIlroy’s pre-tournament press conference in The Bahamas on Tuesday, it was clear that this was a narrative that probably wasn’t going to be enjoyed by the Holywood star.
“Nice shirt, it’s in one piece,” joked one reporter to kick things off.
“It is,” McIlroy replied. “It’s another joke you tried to make that’s not that funny.”
But there’s little doubting that the photograph of the rent fabric caused a huge talking point and, as such, reporters had to ask for more.
"I mean, I pulled on my collar and it ripped,” he said in response to the next shirt question. “I don't know if I've ever done it before.”
He went on to explain, without mention of the garment this time, how he was feeling after his closing round two weeks ago.
“What I was angry about was how I reacted to the bad break, not the bad break or the fact I didn’t win the golf tournament, because Collin played great,” he said.
"And even if I hadn't had that bad break, there was no telling that I was going to win the golf tournament. It was just my reaction to that bad break that made me angry because I basically lost my head after that and made a bogey on 16.
"The fact that I didn't win the tournament was totally fine, but it was more just the reaction of what happened after the break on 15.”
But there was still time for one more shirt question – one too many for McIlroy – as he was asked what happened to the torn t-shirt.
“I went to the pro shop, bought a new one, threw that one in the trash. This f**king ripped shirt, Jesus,” he growled.
BREAKING NEWS .. @McIlroyRory raging post final round 74 @dpwtc @EuropeanTour— 💯Golf ⛳️ News & Science (@TOURMISS) November 21, 2021
Frustration boils over with Rory tearing his @nikegolf shirt heading to scorer's hut 😮😱@IrishGolferMag @Record_Sport @Golf_Grinder pic.twitter.com/Qw7zYWuuw8
McIlroy, playing in Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge for the first time since 2013, begins his opening round later today at 5.22pm GMT alongside Collin Morikawa. Ahead of the event, he compared a portion of his season to Manchester United’s ongoing struggles.
“I guess it's a bit like Manchester United, over the last few games, have looked like they've been playing and not really having a strategy or a philosophy of how they want to play.
"That sort of felt like that was me for a few months of this season. Now I feel like I've regained what my philosophy is and basically the sort of golf that I want to play. So it was just getting back to being really clear about that and I think that's really helped my confidence.
“(That includes) not being a perfectionist, I guess. Being okay that you're going to miss shots here and there and you have to use your imagination and your short game and your putter to bail you out at times and that's okay, that's golf. Golf's just about getting it around the course in the lowest amount of shots possible. I just had to accept that.”
Meanwhile, McIlroy has softened his stance on the controversial Saudi International and has called on the PGA and DP World Tours to allow their players to compete in the $5m (£3.76m) event.
McIlroy initially opposed the tournament, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and backed by golf legend Greg Norman, calling it a “cash-grab” back in May.
His stance was echoed by both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, with both confirming that any of their players who wished to play in the event would not be granted releases to do so.
But McIlroy, who is the chairman of the Players’ Advisory Committee, believes players are ‘independent contractors’ and has queried if the Tours should stand in their way of playing where they desire.
“I think the Tour should grant releases. It’s an Asian Tour event, it’s an event that has OWGR rankings, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t,” said McIlroy, who still won’t play in Saudi Arabia despite his U-turn.
“I do see reasons why they wouldn’t grant releases, but I think if they’re trying to do what’s best for their members and their members are going to a place other than the PGA Tour and being able to earn that money... I feel like we should be able to do that if that’s what our personal choice is.”
While it is unclear what kind of sanctions the PGA Tour and DP World Tour would levy towards players for playing in the tournament — a list which includes Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry — both bodies doubled down on their threats to do so earlier this week.
McIlroy, in his role on the PAC, hopes for some kind of legal resolution to determine whether players are indeed considered employees and can be sanctioned or even prevented from competing in certain events.
“I think the professional game needs to get to a point where we as professionals need to know where we stand,” he continued.
“Are we actually independent contractors? Are we employed by a certain entity? There’s a lot of grey in that and that’s what sort of needs to be sorted out, I think.
“My view as a professional golfer is I’m an independent contractor, I should be able to go play where I want if I have the credentials and the eligibility to do so.
“I think the players feel like they’re pawns at the minute in this big sort of global game of golf and we just want to know where we sort of stand.
“As someone that represents the players on the PGA Tour board, that’s on me to try to understand where we are and for people to feel comfortable.”