Paul McGinley believes Rory McIlroy must cut out all the noise

Ex-Ryder Cup captain says other issues can prove a distraction to the Grand Slam bid

Paul McGinley: “I want to see him focusing on his golf in the next month, four or five weeks, and then getting down to joining history.” Photograph: by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

If only Paul McGinley had a magic wand, he’d wave it in the direction of Rory McIlroy and make all the ancillary distractions, other than the actual task of playing the game, disappear for the Northern Irishman.

But it's not that simple, so McGinley – Europe's 2014 Ryder Cup winning captain, whose focus these days is on the Champions Tour in the United States and also on his role as analyst with Sky Sports – can only offer the advice that the world number three should take a leaf out of Tiger Woods's book and focus on golf and winning when at tournaments.

Admitting to an element of surprise at the reaction and fallout to McIlroy acceptance of an invitation to play a round of golf with US president Donald Trump, McGinley said: "I think Rory was caught unawares . . . I'd like to see this fire dying as quickly as possible because I want to see him getting back to getting focused, getting back from his injury, getting some tournaments under his belt and trying to join the only five people in the world that have ever achieved the [career] Grand Slam. He's right on the threshold of that [at next month's Masters]. He doesn't need this noise at this moment in time."

No-win situation

"He was in a no-win situation, and that's the problem. When you get offered by the president of the United States to go and play a game of golf, it's very hard to say no. The thing that surprises me is, you know, Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player in the game, very strongly came out in Trump's corner in terms of voting for him, made some strong political statements in his [Trump's] favour, and there's no word about that.

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"Tiger Woods has played with him, no noise around that. Ernie Els came out strongly in favour of Trump as well, and no noise about that."

Recalling that McIlroy entered into the debate about the Olympics just before last year's British Open, McGinley noted: "Of course it affected his performance," said McGinley, adding: "You look to Tiger, what he did in his career. He was there [at tournaments] purely focused on winning. I'm not being critical of Rory; I think his position that he's taken in the media, it's great because he's so insightful and he's so honest. It makes him a very interesting character . . . but it has a downside in terms of it creates noise when there are controversial issues like this.

“Fuel keeps being added to the fire with the more questions it goes on. I want to see him focusing on his golf in the next month, four or five weeks, and then getting down to joining history [in his quest for the career Grand Slam].”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times