Rory McIlroy defends USGA: ‘It’s very easy to criticize’

March 6, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. — The USGA appears to have at least one player in its corner. In the week following a player pile-on that included Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and others criticizing the new rules changes, Rory McIlroy urged other players to give “a bit of leeway” when it comes to adjusting to the changes.

“I think that the governing bodies are a very easy target right now in the game of golf and it’s very easy for people to jump on the bandwagon and sort of criticize,” McIlroy said at a pre-tournament press conference at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Wednesday. “But all these entities in golf, they’re not trying to do anything bad for the game, they’re trying to help the game in some way. So I think we all have to give them a bit of leeway here and say, yes, they probably made some mistakes, but we all do. And I’m sure they will get it right eventually.”

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy says the USGA should be given some leeway when it comes to rules controversies.

Still, McIlroy was miffed by golf’s singular fixation on the rules. “You had that blown call in the NFC Championship game or whatever with the Saints and there was some debate about that, but I’ve never known a sport to be so tangled up in the rules of the game or the rules of the sport,” he said. McIlroy added that, for the most part, the new rules have simplified things, which is a step in the right direction.

The comments came two days after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan sent out a memo to players urging patience, caution and “constructive” feedback. It also came in the wake of a strange Twitter spat involving Justin Thomas and the USGA, which ultimately led to a USGA apology.

McIlroy’s comments are in line with McIlroy’s initial take on the rules when they were implemented at the beginning of the year. He was hopeful the rules could speed up play (though that has not notably been the case thus far).

“I think that they’re trying to simplify the rules, which I think is a great thing for the game,” he said in early January. “I’ve always said that the rules of golf are way too complicated, especially after the debacles and farces we have had at U.S. Opens and all sorts of stuff over the last few years. So I’m happy that they made the decision to try and simplify them and just try to make everything a little bit easier to understand.”

McIlroy’s last win came at last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he lapped the field with a blistering final-round 64 that included birdies on five of the last six holes. He enters the week in good form, with top-fives in each of his last four starts, and offered that Bay Hill “suits my eye pretty well.” He’s back in action alongside Marc Leishman and Patrick Reed at 12:33 p.m. ET on Thursday.