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Rory McIlroy: "I've got a letter from Bill Clinton in the downstairs toilet"

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Ahead of The Open, Rory McIlroy talks personal trainers, private jets and that pesky Will Grigg remix 

You chartered a private jet to take a group of mates to the Euros recently. How does one go about earning a place on Air McIlroy?

You’d need to be a very, very old friend of mine. A number of guys in Northern Ireland have known me since I had nothing, and they’re the people most important to me. You need people like that around. I know those guys would do anything for me, just as I’d do anything for them, so I like to treat them every now and again.

How much of a ribbing did they give you for your acting skills in those Santander ads, though?

Oh, it was horrendous. I mean, I am not an actor. I really try to stress to people not to make me act when I’m in situations like that one. I’d much rather they just let me do what I do. But that’s what real friends do – they’ll give you shit for things like that. Those ads aren’t running any more, so I never have to see them again. Thankfully.

Air travel eats up a lot of your time. What’s your go-to order at 33,000ft?

I try to keep it healthy on planes – which is pretty hard to do – so I drink a lot of water. I’m probably in the bathroom five or six times during the flight. If there’s one thing that I order as a treat, it’s a glass of red. I’m a red wine guy. That’s my vice.

To the extent of collecting?

I’ve got a bit in my Florida house, yeah. When I played a tournament in Napa Valley last year I made sure to stock up at a few vineyards. I try to be strict and only drink one night a week, though.

Do you buy the bottles you like drinking, or buy as an investment?

I buy the stuff I like, but also the stuff that’ll go up in value in a few years. That’s the hardest part – I don’t have the patience to wait. I’m learning to cope, though.

Aside from a wine cellar, what else would catch our attention if we walked into your home?

I have this argument with my fiancée – I don’t like having my trophies on display. I don’t want people walking into my house thinking I’m trying to show off. They’re all in a separate room, apart from one: my first pro-tournament trophy. I won it in Dubai, and it’s this massive Arabic coffee pot. It looks cool so it’s beside the fireplace.

What does Europe’s top golfer keep in his downstairs bathroom?

My home in Belfast had a great bathroom. When I lived there I had a lot of letters framed, all of them from different people congratulating me on wins. I had letters from Bill Clinton, David Cameron, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, [former president of Ireland] Mary McAleese, and hung them in the downstairs toilet. Guests seemed to spend quite a while in there, I found.

Your personal workout routine has just been added to Nike’s training app. Does a golfer really need such a hardcore training regime?

You put an incredible amount of force on to your body, especially your lower back, when you swing a golf club, and in 2010 I was close to giving myself a stress fracture because of it. That’s when I started working with a personal trainer. If I hadn’t done something about my back, that injury would have put me out for a year. As I started getting into training more seriously, I noticed my golf getting better. I won my first major in 2011, got to world No1 in 2012, and kept progressing from there.

What one song gets you training harder than any other?

Right now it’s Freed From Desire by Gala. [Laughs] But that’s because everyone was singing [the alternative Will Grigg version] non-stop during the Euros.

You went to see the Anthony Joshua fight in London last month. You must have got a lot of fitspiration from seeing him in action.

The guy is an unbelievable specimen. The cool thing about him is his dedication and work ethic. And his humbleness, actually – he comes across as a really good guy. I’m a big boxing fan, but that was the first time I’d seen him fight live. It was so impressive. I knew he was huge in the UK, but The O2 was just rocking. The atmosphere was unreal.

In the hope that everything goes well at the British Open this month, how do you deal with the pressure of sinking a winning putt?

I just try not to think about the people supporting me at that moment, because if you do, you start to do it for them rather than yourself. It sounds selfish, but I have to remind myself that I don’t play golf for anyone else but me. I just block everything out. 

It can’t have been easy to block out the one fan that recently inexplicably threw a golf ball at you with an earplug stuck to it…

I think the guy was a bit weird. We got him thrown out. You come across all walks of life in golf. Each to their own, I guess.

The Nike Training Club app is available on iOS and Android devices now. For more information head to nike.com/ntc

(Image: Rex)

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