The Washington Times - June 14, 2011, 06:19PM

Rory McIlroy may not be best friends with LeBron James, but the 22-year-old golfer has enough of a rapport with the NBA superstar that he’s more than willing to defend him.

Before any golf questions from reporters Tuesday at Congressional Country Club in advance of the U.S. Open, McIlroy was asked about his rooting interest in the Miami Heat and how he’d advice James following this NBA Finals loss.


“I think he’s being unfairly scrutinized,” McIlroy said. “Everyone’s gonna have bad days – if it’s on a golf course or on a basketball court.”

McIlroy melted down on Sunday at the Masters, shooting an 80 to fall out of contention at arguably the biggest event in the sport. Short on age but long on maturity, McIlroy handled defeat with grace – something James is being criticized for not doing.

McIlroy said he has received a few texts from James (no word on if he began them with, “Yo this is King James” as has been reported with messages to other NBA players), though his Heat fandom predates “The Decision.”

“I’ve been to like seven or eight Miami Heat games over the past few years just because playing in Doral we try to take in a couple games every year,” McIlroy said. “Because I went to see them more than any other team, that’s just the team that I’ve followed – even before [Chris] Bosh and LeBron went there.”

The relationship is a simple one: James and McIlroy are sponsored by the same watch company – Audemars Piguet. But now that they’ve established at least a bit of a bond, McIlroy isn’t backing down from supporting James.

“He’s got plenty more chances to win finals, and I’m sure the Heat will have a good chance to win it again next year,” McIlroy said.