But now that the 32-year-old golf star has an Olympic appearance under his belt, he understands the magnitude of participating in such a storied event.
“Being a part of something that’s completely different and bigger than me and even our sport in general, that’s a pretty cool thing,” McIlroy said, per Golf Digest. “…I’m happy to be proven wrong.”
.@McIlroyRory's appreciation for competing in the Summer Games has grown while being in Tokyo. 💯
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) July 31, 2021
After a 112-year hiatus, the game of golf returned to the Summer Olympics in 2016. While McIlroy’s official reason for missing out on the 2016 Rio games was the Zika virus outbreak, his skepticism about the event likely played a role as well.
“I’ll probably watch the Olympics, but I’m not sure golf will be one of the events I watch,” Rory McIlroy said after he withdrew from the field.
When asked what he would watch, he responded “Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving … the stuff that matters.”
But now that he’s finally made his Olympic debut, McIlroy sees that Olympic golf matters too.
“I never obviously competed in an Olympic Games, I watched them from afar, but being a part of something that’s completely different and bigger than me and even our sport in general, that’s a pretty cool thing,” he said.
McIlroy’s success so far in the men’s individual tournament could also be playing a role in his change of heart. Heading into today’s final round, the Irishman is in a tie for fifth place at 11-under — just three shots back from American leader Xander Schauffele.
Regardless of tonight’s outcome, the superstar golfer is already looking forward to his next Olympic appearance.
“I didn’t know if this was going to be my only Olympics that I play or whatever and I’m already looking forward to Paris [host of the 2024 games].”
McIlroy will tee off at 9:58 p.m. ET alongside Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz.