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Now Riley has revealed more details about the impromptu round in his column for Golf Monthly. He explains how the round came about – and how he found McIlroy’s company: “Myself and Nick were chatting with Rory at the Genesis Invitational and I mentioned that I was playing with his dad, Gerry, who I often talk to on the fairways when I’m commentating on his son, the following week. He just said, ‘Can I play?’ and the following Tuesday we took to the first tee at glorious Seminole."
If McIlroy’s inclusion in the round was unexpected, the ability he showed on the course more than exceeded Riley’s expectations. He continued: “It was incredible how well he played. He shot the easiest 66 I’ve ever seen and I’m telling you now, if he’d played like that at Sawgrass, no one would have got close. I’m not quite sure why it’s not happening for him in the big events at the moment, but my god he’s impressive.”
Those comments echo the descriptions given by Dougherty of the encounter. The 39-year-old fellow Sky Sports commentator was left in awe of McIlroy’s talent during the round, describing his ability as the closest he’s seen to Tiger Woods. Dougherty, who also used to play professionally, said: "I’ve been lucky enough to play with Tiger in his prime at a US Open where he was head and shoulders above the rest of us and as much as I am in no way the player I was then, I can still remember how that felt and yesterday was as close as I have seen to that level of excellence.”
Riley then confirms what many would suspect – that he and Dougherty were no match for the McIlroys. “They won, obviously. It was just four mates having a knock, as you would with your regular four-ball.” However, as if to prove there were no hard feelings in defeat, Riley also described how impressed with McIlroy he is as a person: “He’s the politest person and there are no airs and graces about him whatsoever – he’s just a humble, normal guy.”
Australian Riley, who had six professional career wins before turning to commentary, was less impressed with his own form on the day. He said: “I’m a bit annoyed that I didn’t play well and better resemble the player that I used to be, but that’s life! I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference to the overall score anyway. But we have a giggle and a laugh and that’s what it’s all about. After the golf, we went into the clubhouse and the locker room and had a drink, sat around and had a good chat. It was just like shooting the breeze with your mates after your regular Saturday morning game. It was really cool.”
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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