TROON, Scotland — Fans in the grandstand stood to applaud Rory McIlroy as he approached the 18th green at Royal Troon on Thursday afternoon. When his par putt completed a round of 69, which kept him near the first-round leaders, a woman’s voice, enriched by a Scottish accent, called out: “Just lovely, Rory.”
McIlroy had received far less tribute and commendation around the globe in the previous two days. Before he had even swung a club in the 145th British Open, McIlory had taken a punishing shot at the worth of golf at the Olympic Games.
McIlroy, who withdrew from the Rio Olympics last month, said on Tuesday that he would not spend his idle time during the Games watching golf, but rather save his time for the Olympic sports of track and field, swimming and diving. He described those sports, with a twist of the knife, as “the ones that matter.”
After Thursday’s round, McIlroy stood by his earlier comments.