iven that Rory McIlroy was visiting the media center for the first time since shredding his golf shirt in rage after squandering the 54-hole lead in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, it seemed only logical that he’d be asked about his Hulk Hogan moment.
“Nice shirt, it’s in one piece,” a reporter said right away after poking the needle.
“It is,” McIlroy replied. “It’s another joke you tried to tell but didn’t go down well.”
This was an early hint that McIlroy had lost his sense of humour and even less interest in discussing the image of him standing in the scoring box after fading to 74 with a torn shirt and an annoyed expression on his face that went viral.
He's snapped a club over his knee, helicoptered another into a pond at Doral and now it seems Rory McIlroy has taken his loss in Dubai out on his shirt (photo @TourMiss). Say what you will but the dude is passionate. pic.twitter.com/NTJJrP32ec
— Rex Hoggard (@RexHoggardGC) November 21, 2021
For the time being, the shirt was forgotten, but it would come up again during McIlroy’s press conference ahead of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Club in Nassau, Bahamas.
McIlroy admitted that it was a frustrating year, one in which he had flashes of brilliance, such as victories at the Wells Fargo Championship in May and the CJ Cup in October, “which is still pretty good,” he said, but lacked the consistency that made 2019 one of his favorite seasons, noting that “that’s the level I want to play at.”
“There was a time this year where I didn’t feel like I was playing my best and I went down a different path in terms of sort of hunting for answers,” McIlroy said. “I definitely feel like I’m a wiser player than I was maybe nine months ago.”
Despite a sad final day in Dubai, where Collin Morikawa snuck past him to win the tournament, McIlroy is returning to the Hero Challenge this week for the first time since 2013.
“I wanted to play a little bit while I was starting to feel like I was getting my golf game back and playing well,” he said. “This is another opportunity to play well and just build on the strong play that I’ve seen over the previous couple of months.”
McIlroy was asked about his Hulk Hogan portrayal again not long after.
Rory, How long did it take you to rip the garment, and when was the last time you did something like this before Dubai?
RORY McILROY: It didn’t work – my collar ripped when I pulled on it. I’m not sure whether I’ve ever done something like this before.
McIlroy must have been relieved to move on to something else, even if it meant delving into the hot topic of rival leagues. “It’s an Asian Tour tournament, it’s an event with OWGR rankings, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t,” he remarked when asked about PGA Tour players being allowed releases to compete in the Saudi International.
“I believe the professional game needs to reach a stage where we as professionals need to know where we stand,” he continued. Is it true that we’re self-employed? Is there a company that employs us? That’s simply stuff that’s — there’s a lot of gray area in there, and I believe that’s what has to be sorted out.”
“I think the players feel like they’re puppets at the moment in this great sort of global game of golf, and we just want to know where we sort of stand,” he said of the rival leagues. And it’s on me, as someone who represents the players on the PGA Tour board, to try to understand where we are and make people feel at ease playing where they play.”
Enough of that, McIlroy was then asked to relive his dreadful Sunday in Dubai and explain what had gotten him so worked up.
“What I was unhappy about was how I reacted to the terrible break, not the bad break or the fact that I didn’t win the golf tournament,” he explained. “What made me unhappy was my response to that terrible break, because I virtually lost my mind after that and made a bogey on 16.”
McIlroy is re-energized and his confidence is on the rise after going winless leading into Sunday’s singles and being benched for the first time in his Ryder Cup career.
“I’m more confident in what I’m doing,” he explained. “I believe it’s similar to how Manchester United has looked in recent games like they’ve been going out and playing without really having a strategy or a philosophy of how they want to play.” For a few months of this season, I felt like that was me.
“Now I feel like I’ve rediscovered my philosophy and, more importantly, the type of golf that I want to play.”
That’s when a reporter supposedly had one too many beers with McIlroy and inquired what had happened to his ripped Nike golf shirt.
“I went to the pro shop, bought a new one, and tossed the old one,” he explained. Before the next question was answered, there was stillness, and McIlroy exclaimed, “I mean, this f—ing shredded shirt, Jesus.”
But, being Rory, he kept his cool and addressed a series of questions on his wedges, including the fact that he’s increased the bounce on his 60-degree wedge to 14 degrees.
“Which, to be honest, has really helped,” he remarked.
Please, no more inane queries or comments about his ripped clothing.