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Rory McIlroy – “My hero growing up was Tiger Woods”

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It’s hard to imagine that recent events in Minneapolis and the death of George Floyd, which sparked protests throughout the United States and beyond, would find their way to the golf course. However, the #BlackLivesMatter movement which has dominated headlines of late, has also given Rory McIlroy reason to pause and reflect on the need for more diversity in golf.

During an interview with The Guardian, McIlroy highlighted “tolerance” as a word he’s been thinking about a lot in recent weeks, whilst also observing that there’s possibly a lack of diversity in golf that should be addressed, and that more opportunities in the sport need to be made available to a broader spectrum of ethnic backgrounds.

McIlroy was also keen to speak about one golfer in particular, who overcame racial prejudices and all manner of career hurdles, going on to become the biggest star of the sport in recent decades. “My hero growing up was Tiger Woods,” he pointed out with enthusiasm, speaking with great admiration of an iconic player who inspired his own desire to succeed as a golfer.

“Tiger doesn’t look the same as me, has had a very different upbringing to the one I’ve had, but he was my hero growing up, and it didn’t matter what color his skin was, what his beliefs were,” McIlroy underlined. “We’ve been very lucky to have him in our game. I think that there should be more people like him in golf,” he concluded, firmly of the belief that further ethnic and racial diversity would improve the image of the sport even further.

Despite a deep-rooted and lasting admiration for Tiger Woods over the years, who dominated the fairways and greens at major championships through the late nineties and turn of the millennium through the noughties, it’s McIlroy who now finds himself boasting the distinction of being the world’s leading player.

After gaining the world number one ranking from Brooks Koepka in February, the money list is also topped by the Northern Irishman, while the latest golf betting odds for McIlroy have him priced as firm favorite to win each of the upcoming major tournaments. These include odds of +800 for the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park, +900 for the US Open at Winged Foot, along with being clear +700 favorite for the 2020 US Masters at Augusta.

McIlroy enjoyed excellent form throughout 2019, finishing high up the leaderboard in several tournaments and victory in the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. This was followed by further triumphs in the RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s, the Tour Championship at East Lake, then the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai.

Nevertheless, victory at one of the majors has eluded McIlroy since 2014 and an exceptional year in which he won both the Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Gold Club, followed by his second career PGA Championship at at Valhalla Golf Club, narrowly beating the challenge of runner-up Phil Mickelson by just one stroke.

Ahead of the challenges awaiting McIlroy at major tournaments later this year, he will find both pleasure and inspiration sharing the fairways with his idol, Tiger Woods. He will also be hopeful to continue emulating the success of his hero, taking another step towards catching the magnificent haul of trophies the American golfer has accumulated over the years.

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