WHEN you’re a globetrotting golfer, the amount of time spent flying hither and yon in a plane just about leaves you with the kind of vast carbon footprint that tends to be the reserve of a coal-fired power plant in China.

Step forward, then, Rory McIlroy. “I wouldn't self-profess to be an eco-warrior, but I'm someone that doesn't want to damage the environment,” confessed the Northern Irishman, who has touched down in Dubai for this week’s DP World Tour Championship.

While he may not be getting honorary membership of Extinction Rebellion, McIlroy, as always, demonstrated a wider sense of awareness as an interview meandered into green issues far removed from the pace of the putting surfaces on the stimp.

“Two years ago, after I won in China, I flew back home privately, and it was just me on the plane,” he reflected of this jet-setting lifestyle. “And I just got this massive sense of guilt come over me.”

Mention the phrase ‘carbon offsetting’ to some golfers and they’ll probably think it’s something to do with the clubface’s position in relation to the shaft. McIlroy has given it much deeper thought, however.

“When the R&A and the USGA brought out their distance insights report, the best thing they spoke about was the sustainability aspect of golf and how to make the footprint of courses smaller,” added the 32-year-old, who could’ve been delivering his press conference from behind a lectern at COP 26. “So that is certainly something we can all do. If every other industry in the world is making a push towards going green, why should we be any different?”

With this in mind, McIlroy sought the environmentally savvy wisdom of the GEO Foundation, an organisation which encourages and promotes sustainable endeavours in the golf industry.

“How can I neutralise what I do?” McIlroy asked them. “And they came up with a few different ways that I can do that. So on top of what I pay to fly privately, I pay quite a bit more on top of that to make sure I'm carbon neutral by the end of the year. It's something that I have a conscience about and I take it seriously, especially when you see some of these weather events that are happening. I live in a part of the world where hurricanes are very prevalent and becoming more and more prevalent as the years go on. I think we can all play our part in some way or another.

“We play on big pieces of land that take up a lot of water that some argue could maybe be put to better use. This isn’t something I've talked to many of the players about. But for my own peace of mind, I know that when I do travel I'm not doing it to the detriment of the world that we live in.”

This week is all about DP World. The Dubai-based logistics firm have been long-time backers of the season-ending Tour Championship but they have upped the ante financially in a new deal that will see the European Tour rebranded as the DP World Tour from 2022.

It may signal a new era for the European circuit but for Florida-based McIlroy it will be business as usual in terms of scheduling. “It's a great thing for this tour that those who compete here full-time have a place to play long into the future,” he said of the benefits to the rank-and-file. “But  I live in America. That's where I'm going to play the majority of my golf. I'm just going to play the same events I've played for the last five years or so. It may encourage me to add an event here or there, but for the most part I'll probably keep doing what I've done the last few years.”

This particular year has been one of ups-and-downs for McIlroy but, amid some well-documented toils and his tearful Ryder Cup apology to his team-mates, he has still won twice on the PGA Tour and has arrived in a happy hunting ground of Dubai in good fettle.

“I feel like it's been a year of exploration, of learning,” he said. “There's been some good stuff in there. I feel like I went through the barrier of struggle, if you will, and then I came through the other side of it. I don't regret any of it. It's been a good year.”