Rory McIlroy welcomes PGA Tour's silence for George Floyd at Colonial Country Club

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson
McIlroy practiced with Dustin Johnson at Colonial Country Club on Wednesday
Charles Schwab Challenge - return of the PGA Tour
Dates: 11-14 June Venue: Fort Worth, Texas
Coverage: BBC Sport will have live coverage of all four days with commentary on BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra and text updates on the BBC Sport website

The PGA Tour's decision to leave vacant the 08:46 tee time at this week's comeback event in Texas in memory of George Floyd is "a wonderful gesture" says world number one Rory McIlroy.

Eight minutes 46 seconds was the length of time African American Floyd lay dying beneath the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The PGA Tour returns on Thursday with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club, the first event to be played on the tour since 12 March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

McIlroy praised an initiative that keeps golf in line with other organisations by taking steps to remember the death in police custody of Floyd two weeks ago.

Floyd's funeral took place in Houston, Texas on Tuesday. His death has led to protests in many major cities across the US and the rest of the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

No players will arrive on the first tee at 08:46 (14:46 BST) and those already out on the course will be asked to to "pause for reflection as a demonstration of support for the Tour's commitment to addressing racial and social injustices".

"A great word that I've been thinking of over the last couple of weeks is tolerance," said the Northern Irishman. "I think everyone can just be a little more tolerant, and a little more educated and not as ignorant."

He cited lifelong admiration of 15-time major winner Tiger Woods while discussing the current issues of racism and social justice.

"Tiger doesn't look the same as me, has had a very different upbringing to the one that I have had, but he was my hero growing up," McIlroy added.

"It didn't matter what colour his skin was, what his beliefs were. Tiger was my hero, and he's been a lot of kids' heroes over the years that have grown up playing golf."

McIlroy said there was still plenty of room for more diversity in the sport, adding "I think that there should be more people like him in golf".

"The fact that there does seem to be this real will to change and have reform is amazing. It's been a great thing to see, and I hope it continues to be in the conversation."

McIlroy is preparing to compete under social distancing strictures introduced to combat Covid-19, including playing without spectators present at the course.

He is playing in a marquee group on Thursday and Friday with Spain's Jon Rahm and American Brooks Koepka - respectively the world numbers two and three. They tee off at 19:06 BST on Thursday and BBC Sport will have live text updates and radio coverage of their rounds.

"I think this week is very important because golf will be the centre of the sports world," he said.

"People have something to watch on TV where they actually don't know the outcome, which I think is going to be nice for them.

"And it's an important week because golf can show that we can play in a socially distant manner. We can conduct a tournament and adhere to all the safety protocols that have been put in place."

The four times major winner also says the current crisis could be the catalyst for a merger between the PGA and European Tours. "I've sort of been calling for it for a while," he said.

"I think for the health of both tours, a world tour is something I've always wanted," McIlroy added: "I think this pandemic has highlighted the fact that the game of golf at the highest level needs to be simplified."

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC