Rory McIlroy is firing back at people criticizing him for playing a round of golf with President Donald Trump ... saying it was out of respect for his title, NOT his political values.
The Northern Irish golf star released a statement Friday afternoon ... claiming he's been called a "bigot" and "fascist" for golfing with POTUS last week.
"Whether you respect the person who holds that position or not, you respect the office that he holds," McIlroy says.
"This wasn't an endorsement nor a political statement of any kind. It was, quite simply, a round of golf. Golf was our common ground, nothing else."
"I've travelled all over the world and have been fortunate enough to befriend people from many different countries, beliefs and cultures."
"To be called a fascist and a bigot by some people because I spent time in someone's company is just ridiculous."