Further Review: McIlroy a victim of speech police brutality

Before the start of the Tour Championship, Rory McIlroy was asked if the absence of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the PGA Tour’s playoff finale symbolized a changing of the guard.

That’s when McIlroy made a huge mistake.

He gave a perfectly good, thoughtful, apolitical response. He answered a question to the best of his ability. And as we all know, unless a sports figure of his stature sanitizes each word like it was a surgical scalpel, there is trouble awaiting in the instant outrage theaters of social and traditional media.

Boiling down McIlroy’s thoughts: Woods has been hurt, but will return. Mickelson got a little worn down this year. Hey, they’re getting older. It happens. They’re on the last holes of their careers.

Such was the adverse reaction to McIlroy merely stating a circle-of-life reality — how dare this youngster dismiss these venerable champions! — that he felt the need to defend himself later.

“I wasn’t writing either one of them off. I didn’t say anything wrong, but I was looking at Twitter (afterward) wondering what I said that was so bad,” he said after the first round of the Tour Championship.

And one of the rarest kinds of stars — one who occasionally trades in interesting observations — just took a further step toward becoming another vanilla wafer in the Nabisco landscape of sports. We’ll Belichick him before you know it, if we may turn the master of nothing-speak into a verb.

The McIlroy episode was but a small example of how quick we can be to indict innocent speech. One dare not hint that Woods and Mickelson are subject to same drag of aging as everyone else. Really? What made them immune?

Sure there are statements and sentiments that deserve our most harsh examination — haven’t we seen enough of that lately? McIlroy’s comments are comparative mushrooms in the forest.

I’m just getting a little weary of living in a world that so relentlessly beats the candor and good humor out of its public figures.