McIlroy in the eye of the storm following controversial Stenson tweet

Mark McGowan
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Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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After months of relative inactivity, save for a few retweets, Rory McIlroy returned to ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) with a bang last week when he posted a series of messages following the leaked story that the R&A and USGA were intending to implement a rule change that would see all golfers forced to play a reduced-flight golf ball from 2028 for the pros and from 2030 for the amateurs.

One of the most outspoken players in the game and one of the most ardent critics of LIV Golf since it arrived on the scene in the last couple of years, McIlroy has not endeared himself to many LIV players, including several who he’d been team mates with in the past.

Following Jon Rahm’s departure to LIV, McIlroy told Sky Sports’ Jamie Weir that he was certain that Rahm would still be part of the Ryder Cup in 2025. “Jon is going to be in Bethpage in 2025 so, because of this decision, the European Tour (DP World Tour) are going to have to rewrite the rules for the Ryder Cup eligibility,” McIlroy said. “There’s absolutely no question about that … I certainly want Jon Rahm on the next Ryder Cup team.”

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McIlroy, of course, had previously been in favour of LIV players being excluded from the Ryder Cup for a variety of reasons, stating: “They’re going to miss being here [Rome] more than we’re missing them.”

Henrik Stenson, famously, had been awarded the Ryder Cup captaincy for Rome but was stripped of the role after he joined LIV, and following McIlroy’s words about Rahm, golf data guru Lou Stagner directed a message to McIlroy querying whether he now felt that the rules should be changed to give Stenson the captaincy again.

Likely not expecting a response, Stagnar will have been as surprised as anybody when the official Rory McIlroy account replied, saying: “The best thing to happen to the 2023 Euro Ryder cup [sic] team was Henrik going to LIV!”

That it was actually McIlroy himself and not a team member with access to his ‘X’ account that posted the message has yet to be confirmed, but it’s hard to fathom such a post being sent out without McIlroy’s approval and the lack of a denial suggests that he was well aware of the content if not actually typing it himself.

The ‘glass half-full’ approach is to suggest that it was a message intended to showcase McIlroy’s admiration for the incredible job that Luke Donald did when taking over from Stenson, whereas the ‘glass half-empty’ interpretation is that it was a direct swipe at Stenson, a man who was his Ryder Cup teammate in 2014, 2016 and 2018. If it was the former, it was a little clumsy and if it was the latter, could be construed as downright petty, but either way, it set the internet ablaze and several people have taken the opportunity to take a swipe back at the world number two.

Ian Poulter, another of McIlroy’s former teammates, sarcastically suggested that it was a parody account, adding that “Rory McIlroy wouldn’t say this. it’s [sic] fake I promise you. He is a class act and wouldn’t say that about a Team mate.”

Lee Westwood, another who has an axe to grind with McIlroy over the stance he’s taken on LIV, replied to the message saying “Nice to see the season of good will in full swing! Merry Christmas!!!”

Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal, who played in LIV’s opening event at London’s Centurion Club back in June of 2022 before returning to the DP World Tour, was another who found it incredulous that McIlroy would take that approach.

“Really?” he tweeted, “I really don’t like where this is going. Rory didn’t say that.” To which Westwood then replied “‘Sorry guys, my phone got hacked'” implying that that would be the excuse given by McIlroy, with Larrazábal later writing: “To exalt someone, you don’t have to destroy the other.”

With his recent decision to leave the PGA Tour Policy Board, there’s a good chance that McIlroy’s become fed up with being at the forefront of what’s increasingly looking like a futile battle and there’s an even better chance that his frustrations have lead to the ill-judged tweet at Stenson’s expense.

 

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