Rory McIlroy is easily one of the most famous professional golfers out there. In 2016, Forbes ranked him as the 60th highest paid celebrity in the world, having made $42.5 million last year. That sandwiches him right between Ben Affleck and Elton John on the prestigious index.
However because of the lower public profile of pro golfers in general, McIlroy doesn’t have to deal with the same level of public bombardment and paparazzi action as many of his celebrity-earnings peers. Unlike many other top-earning professional athletes, he maintains a fair level of anonymity when venturing out in the world; particularly when there are no golf tournaments being held in the area.
That’s why he couldn’t imagine living life like Tiger Woods.
In a recent interview with the Irish Independent, the 27-year-old native of Northern Ireland spoke about the impact that Woods has had on his life and his career.
Interviewer Paul Kimmage quoted some of golf’s greatest in regards to the spectacle that Woods life has been for the duration of his career.
PK: This is a quote from Michael Bamberger’s book ‘Men in Green’: ‘I have heard Palmer, Nicklaus and Watson all say the same thing, each in his own way: I wouldn’t trade places with Tiger Woods for all the money in the world.’
PK: Is that something you’ve thought about much?
McIlroy’s response was a poignant reminder of just how unattractive that level of fame can become once you’ve witnessed it play out in front of you.
“I’ve seen it first-hand. I’ve seen what his life is like in Florida. I’ve played golf with him and said, ‘What are you doing tonight? Do you want to come and have dinner with us?’ And he can’t. He just can’t. And for me that’s unfathomable. I could not live like that.
…If someone was to say, ‘You can have 14 Majors and 70 wins but have to deal with that, or nine Majors and 40 wins and stay somewhat the same as you are’, I’d take the second option all day.”
Okay so maybe this isn’t exactly the most gripping indictment on fame, considering a 2015 estimation of McIlroy’s assets totaled over $400 million. It’s easy to say you’d trade exorbitant riches and worldwide fame for a cool $40+ million per year and a manageable level of fame.
Still, I don’t think any of us would disagree that Woods life is unenviable in many ways. He’s pathologically competitive, his personal life has gone through the wringer and it appears that in spite of everything he’s accomplished, he’s never been truly content.
Conversely, I’d take McIlroy’s cushy set-up in a heartbeat. Immense success, fabulous wealth and the ability to go to dinner without people mobbing you? That’s the dream, my friends.