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12th Aug 2016

Jack Nicklaus comes out in support of Rory McIlroy at the US Senior Open

Andrew Pierse

Rory McIlroy might not have been the only big-name player to pass on a place at the Olympics, but he certainly made the biggest splash with his withdrawal.

It’s almost two months since McIlroy announced that he wouldn’t be playing due to health concerns with the Zika virus, but it was at the Open Championship a week later where he made his real feelings known.

“I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game,” McIlroy said. ‘I got into golf to try and win championships and major championships. I didn’t get into golf to get other people into the game.”

As expected, people throughout the golfing world took McIlroy’s blunt comments quite badly. As a star of the game he’s expected to give back to the sport. There’s a certain responsibility that comes with being a top athlete in any sport.

One person who can understand where he’s coming from however is Jack Nicklaus. He was there himself. He felt the same emotions throughout his own career.

‘When I was playing the game I wasn’t into growing it either,’ Nicklaus said speaking ahead of the US Senior Open this week. ‘Did I play a lot of places? Sure. And by playing a lot of places, that helped to grow the game. But I was there to win, not grow.’

Considering Jack Nicklaus has been one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors for the last 50 years and one of the most vocal figures in ensuring its return to the Olympics, his views are going to take quite a bit of pressure off McIlroy’s shoulders.

“I was a little critical of the guys to start with. I thought it was quite selfish of them not to go. Then I started looking at it, and it’s not the pinnacle of their sport. It’s a pretty awkward time of the year because they’ve got the major championships.

“And, of course then, they’ve got the zika concerns. I hope they look favourably upon the game next year when they vote again so it goes beyond 2020 and lots of guys and gals have the opportunity to try for a gold medal.”

Classy words from a classy man. Rory might not have the Irish people on his side at the moment but it must be nice to know Jack Nicklaus has your back.

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