By every measure, Rory McIlroy is in the prime of his career. And given recent performances by players in their 40s and 50s on the PGA Tour, McIlroy, 32, who is originally from Northern Ireland, has decades to go before thinking about hanging up his spikes.
Yet McIlroy has already put a plan in place for life beyond golf, and it is far removed from the traditional route of designing golf courses, promoting branded apparel or getting into the wine business.
He has set up the investment fund Symphony Ventures, which in a little over two years has made 14 investments. There are some golf companies in the mix, including Puttery, which combines miniature golf with bars and restaurants. But the majority are health care related, like LetsGetChecked, which developed at-home medical tests.
With the British Open set 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 are your thoughts going into the Open at Royal St. George’s?
In 2011, I played the Open there when Darren Clarke won. It’s the most unusual of the courses in the Open rota [schedule]. It’s very undulating. Its bumpy. It’s hilly. It’s quirky. You’re going to get some really bad bounces but also some really good bounces too.
For nearly half your life you’ve been a professional golfer, with four majors in your 19 PGA Tour wins and 14 European Tour victories. How do the challenges change?
You have to strike a balance. When I turned pro in 2007, golf was my life. I probably thought I had a good balance, but I didn’t. I’m a new father now, and that presents its own challenges to your career. You don’t quite have as much time as you did before. You have to be really efficient with time management. The game has also changed a lot. These kids coming out of college 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 know I can play. There are just a few more players to beat now.
Why did you create Symphony Ventures in 2019?
I had gotten to a point where I had done financially well on the golf course. We were looking to do something different. It was, do I open another wealth management portfolio and do the same thing again? Or do I do something like this, as a great introduction to meet new people?
Who vets your deals?
We have a few trusted people who have been in the venture capital and private equity world a long time. I don’t sit down and do the due diligence. We have trusted people who say this is good. It’s treated like a real business.
Why do this now, in your prime?
I know golf isn’t going to last forever. Once golf comes to an end, I won’t be looking for something to do.
Why this instead of course design?
Designing golf courses doesn’t really whet my appetite at the moment. I’ve never been one of those golf course architecture geeks. I’m decent at playing golf courses. I don’t think I’d be great at designing them right now. I think I know what I like in a golf course. But I’d have to sit down with [the course architect] Gil Hanse for six months to learn how to do it.
How do you ensure that business opportunities don’t distract you from golf?
I am a golfer first and foremost. I hope it lasts for another 15 or 20 years, especially with what Phil [Mickelson] did with winning the P.G.A. Championship this year. But now I want to explore these other avenues. I just don’t want to be sitting at home when my career is over.