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Rory McIlroy slams international golfers who didn’t return to PGA Tour during coronavirus pandemic

The RBC Heritage kicked off on Thursday at Harbour Town Golf Club in South Carolina, marking the second PGA Tour event since play resumed after a more than three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several international players, however, have opted not to rejoin the Tour for numerous reasons — including international travel restrictions in the United States. 

That isn’t sitting well with current top-ranked golfer Rory McIlroy.

“If I were in their shoes and I was asked to come over to the States and shelter in place or quarantine for two weeks before these tournaments, I would have done that,” McIlroy, who shot a 1-over on Thursday, said, via ESPN. “Because if you really care about your career and care about moving forward, you should be here.

“I get there are different variables and families and stuff involved, but we all have the means to rent a very nice house in a gated community in Florida, and it’s not a hardship for two weeks to come over and quarantine. It’s fine. My caddie Henry [Diamond] came over and did it. He stayed in our guesthouse. The two weeks flew by.”

‘I honestly don’t understand guys complaining’

The PGA Tour suspended play indefinitely after the first round at The Players Championship in March. While McIlroy, a Northern Ireland native, retreated to his home in Florida during the pandemic, many international players returned to their home countries. 

While the Tour has implemented several precautionary measures for its return — including weekly testing, chartered flights, centralized hotels and not allowing fans at events, to name a few — several players decided to hold off, including Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Adam Scott and more. 

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Not only is the coronavirus still raging in the United States — there were more than 2.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as of Thursday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more that 118,000 deaths attributed to it — but some have said they don’t want to be stuck with a second two-week quarantine if they do decide to return to their home countries later. 

McIlroy, however, doesn’t think their concerns are valid. Golf found a way to come back, he said, and that should be their priority. 

“I honestly don’t understand the guys complaining because there is a solution to it,” McIlroy said, via ESPN. “You can come over here and do what needs to be done … It might seem a little harsh, but I don’t get that mindset, especially if you care about your career and you want to advance.”

Rory McIlroy doesn't understand why some international golfers are hesitant to return to the PGA Tour amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still raging in the United States. (AP/Gerry Broome)

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