Rory McIlroy Has a Long Game
By all accounts, Rory McIlroy is at the peak of his career. And given the recent performances of players in their 40s and 50s on the PGA Tour, McIlroy, 32, from Northern Ireland, has decades before he thinks about hanging up his spikes.
Yet McIlroy already has a plan in place for life beyond golf, and he’s a far cry from the traditional path of designing golf courses, promoting branded clothing, or getting into the wine business. .
He created the Symphony Ventures investment fund, which in just over two years has made 14 investments. There are a few golf companies in the mix, including Puttery, which combines miniature golf with bars and restaurants. But the majority are related to health care, like LetsGetChecked, which has developed home medical tests.
With the British Open scheduled for Royal St. George’s Golf Club this week, McIlroy, who won the Open in 2014, spoke about golf and business. The following interview has been condensed and edited.
What do you think of the Open at Royal St. George’s?
In 2011, I played the Open there when Darren Clarke won. This is the most unusual of the Open rota courses [schedule]. It is very hilly. It’s bumpy. It is hilly. It’s weird. You’re going to get some really bad rebounds, but also some really good rebounds.
For almost half of your life you have been a professional golfer, with four majors in your 19 wins on the PGA Tour and 14 wins on the European Tour. How are the challenges changing?
We have to find a balance. When I turned pro in 2007 golf was my life. I probably thought I had a good balance, but I’m not. I’m a new dad now, and this presents its own challenges for your career. You don’t have as much time as before. You have to be very efficient in time management. The game has also changed a lot. These young people who are graduating from university are ready to win. They play so much more aggressively. You have to adapt and keep coming up with new ideas. I still think I can win and I know I can play. There are only a few players left to beat now.
Why did you create Symphony Ventures in 2019?
I had come to a point where I had done well financially on the golf course. We were looking to do something different. It was, do I open another wealth management portfolio and start the same thing over? Or do I do something like this, as a great introduction to meeting new people?
Who controls your offers?
We have a few trustworthy people who have been in the venture capital and private equity business for a long time. I don’t sit down and do due diligence. We have trusted people who say it’s good. It’s treated like a real business.
Why do this now, in the prime of life?
I know golf is not going to last forever. Once the golf is over, I won’t look for anything more to do.
Why this design instead of course?
Designing golf courses doesn’t really whet my appetite right now. I’ve never been one of those golf course architecture geeks. I am decent on the golf courses. I don’t think I would be good at designing them right now. I think I know what I like about a golf course. But I should sit with it [the course architect] Gil Hanse for six months to learn how to do it.
How do you make sure business opportunities don’t distract you from golf?
I am above all a golfer. I hope it will last another 15 or 20 years, especially with what Phil [Mickelson] made by winning the PGA Championship this year. But now I want to explore these other avenues. I don’t want to sit at home when my career is over.
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