McIlroy: ‘A nice feel, but not the dream Olympic experience’

"When Hideki (Matsuyama) won the Masters, the first thing I thought of was how good the atmosphere is going to be at the Olympics."

Rory McIlroy left it late to arrive for the Tokyo Olympics golf tournament, but the four-time major winner said he liked the Kasumigaseki Country Club course after his first look on Wednesday.

McIlroy only touched down from the US on Tuesday and will tee off at 10:25 am local time Thursday, representing Ireland in a mouth-watering grouping alongside newly-crowned British Open champion Collin Morikawa and South Korea’s Im Sung-jae.

“It’s really just a fun golf course,” said McIlroy after his only chance to practise on the 7,447-yard par-71 layout, where a field of 60 will battle for the medals over four stroke play rounds.

“It’s in great shape, it’s immaculate. It’s going to be a really nice week. There’s plenty of opportunities out there for birdies, but then if you don’t hit the fairways the rough is pretty penal.”

McIlroy will be representing Ireland with 2019 British Open champion Shane Lowry, meaning they are the most decorated team in the event, with five majors between them.

The four-man USA team of Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed can boast only four.

The British pair of Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood have been at the course since Saturday to prepare and acclimatise to the time zone shift, but McIlroy said he felt great despite his late arrival and long journey from Florida.

“I left Palm Beach yesterday morning at 6am (local time), got in here, landed around 11am yesterday,” McIlroy said.

‘Not the Olympic experience’

“I got through the airport pretty quickly, which is nice. I got to the hotel, did a workout, met the guys for dinner and had a good night’s sleep.

“And then I’ve had a good day today of practice. It’s sort of nice it’s got that World Golf Championships feel where there’s a limited field and no cut,” added the world number 13.

“It’s just a nice feel, so I’m just going to come out tomorrow and play.”

The only downside, said McIlroy, is the lack of spectators at Tokyo 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions, especially the packed golf-mad home galleries that would have followed Japan’s Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama’s every move.

McIlroy witnessed it first-hand two years ago at the Zozo Championship, where he finished behind Matsuyama and winner Tiger Woods in third.

“When Hideki won the Masters, the first thing I thought of was how good the atmosphere is going to be at the Olympics,” said McIlroy.

“Unfortunately that’s not the case. So yeah, it’s tough. It’s not the Olympic experience that anyone dreams of having.

“But there’s three medals up for grabs and we’re all here trying to play for those.”

Golf only returned to the Olympics in 2016 after more than a century’s absence, so McIlroy admitted that he had never harboured Olympic dreams as a youngster as the sport wasn’t played at the Games.

“I don’t know what it will mean to win a medal because I grew up dreaming of Claret Jugs and Green Jackets,” admitted McIlroy.

“Maybe I can articulate it a little better if I am in possession of one on Sunday.”

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