Rory McIlroy was glad to be “somewhat proven wrong” by the success of golf at the Olympics following its controversial return to the Games.
McIlroy was one of more than 20 top players to withdraw from Rio.
The 27-year-old initially cited concerns over the Zika virus, but later admitted that major championships remained the “pinnacle” of the sport and he would only watch “the stuff that matters” in the Olympics.
Gold medal winner Justin Rose revealed he had received a message of congratulations from McIlroy which implied that the four-time major winner had changed his mind and watched the thrilling climax.
And speaking at a press conference ahead of the first FedEx Cup play-off event at Bethpage Black, McIlroy confirmed he had caught the decisive final hole and first medal ceremony since 1904.
“I saw Henrik and Justin’s fairway woods at the last and I saw the chip shots and I saw the putts and I saw the medal ceremony,” McIlroy said at The Barclays.
“Actually I spent the weekend in my in-laws cabin in upstate New York where there was no TV, no electricity. But we got back Sunday afternoon, so caught up with it.
“Obviously it pleasantly surprised me. There was more people at the golf events than there was at the athletics.
“It was good to see, it really was.
“It seems like it was a great atmosphere down there. I think it was one of the cheaper tickets as well, and I think that encouraged a lot of people to go.
“It was well supported down there and I think Justin was a great winner. He was on board from the start. You go back years and see his quotes about it, and he was really excited to play and looking forward to play. So I think it was the right winner in the end, as well.
“It was nice to be proven wrong somewhat in terms of... like I thought golf was sort of going to get lost a little bit. It was away from the village; I thought it was going to just sort of blend in with everything else and be, not forgotten about, but just one of a lot of sports that are there obviously. But to see the crowds and see the turnout, I was glad to be somewhat proven wrong.”
Players in Rio reported only a handful of encounters with mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus, but numerous cases have recently been recorded across the United States, including in McIlroy’s adopted home state of Florida.
“I haven’t been back in Florida since June,” McIlroy added. “I’m planning to go down there the weekend before The Tour Championship.
“You see cases even north of that in Ohio and New Jersey and all sorts of places. It’s hard not to go home, but at the same time Zika was just one of a few issues I felt like I was facing going down to Brazil.
“I guess everyone’s got to deal with it and at the same time it’s not as if Erica (Stoll, his fiancee) and I are planning on having kids in the next year or so. We’ll see. But be nice to go home at some point.”
McIlroy, who is down to fifth in the world after Stenson won silver in Rio, has not played since missing the cut in the US PGA, where he labelled his putting as “pathetic.”
Days afterwards, his sponsors Nike announced that it plans to “transition out” of making golf equipment, leaving the likes of McIlroy with a decision to make about their future plans.
“I’m very happy with pretty much everything,” McIlroy said. “I think everyone knows I’ve made a change in putter, but I think that was inevitable after my performance at Baltusrol.
“I’m not going to commit to anything. I wouldn’t be surprised to see me not go with a manufacturer for a year or two, just sort of play with what I want to play and go from there. No reason to start changing just because I can.
“I haven’t been home, but apparently my parents’ house has been inundated with golf equipment from different manufacturers. I haven’t asked for it, but it’s there. My dad’s having a field day!”