'If he hadn't played, he would have been taking a very strong political position' - McGinley backing Rory McIlroy
Paul McGinley's fervent wish is that Rory McIlroy can bury the 'golf with Trump' controversy as soon as possible and get on with the challenge of making history at the Masters next month.
McGinley, the 2014 Ryder Cup captain and manager of Ireland's Olympic team for Rio last year, feels that McIlroy has suffered unwarranted criticism for his recent social round with the US president, and wonders how other leading figures in the game have escaped the same levels of negativity.
"The thing that surprises me is Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player in the game, very strongly came out in Trump's corner in terms of voting for him, made some strong political statements in his favour, and there's no word about that," he said.
"Tiger Woods has played with him, no noise around that. Ernie Els came out strongly in favour of Trump as well, and no noise about that.
"He (McIlroy) was in a no-win situation, and that's the problem.
"When you get offered by the president of the United States to go and play a game of golf, it's very hard to say no. That's what Padraig (Harrington) said, and I agree fully with Padraig.
"How do you turn down the office of the presidency of the United States?
"If he hadn't played, he would have been taking a very strong political position, which would have created a lot of furore in the other direction."
Ideally, McGinley would prefer to say nothing on the issue, but he did not duck the questions.
The Dubliner is far more exercised by McIlroy's prospects of joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods as winners of the four Majors, the 'career Grand Slam.'
"Let him get down to his golf and hopefully people will move away from the noise and the talk around Donald Trump and him playing golf," he said. "We're on the threshold of history here.
"An Irishman can join only five people in the history of the game who won the Grand Slam, and he only gets one opportunity a year because the Masters is the one that he's missing."
McIlroy is playing the WGC-Mexico Championship this week, his first event since January 15, the day he lost a play-off in the BMW SA Championship to Graeme Storm.
The four-time Major champion played through the pain barrier with a rib injury that week.
It subsequently kept him off the Tour until today, when he tees it up alongside world No 1 Dustin Johnson and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama at 5.36pm Irish time.
The tournament venue is Club de Golf Chapultepec, over 7,000 feet above sea level.
McIlroy's performance and his body's reaction to four rounds of tournament golf will come under intense scrutiny, but he remains optimistic.
"Good to go. I'm still strapping it up and still being a little bit, not protective, but careful," he said. "I'm making sure I'm really warmed up before going out to play, a little bit of kinesio tape there just to help support it.
"I've been working through the bag the last seven to ten days and it feels really good."
The European Tour announced yesterday that Spain's Jon Rahm and Kevin Na (USA) are taking affiliate membership for 2017, which means they can collect Rolex Series points starting in Mexico. A bonus for Europe is that Rahm can gain Ryder Cup points this year.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke and Paul Dunne compete in the Tshwane Open at Pretoria CC in South Africa.
- Tshwane Open: Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30am/12.30pm
- WGC-Mexico Championship: Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0pm
Paul McGinley will be part of Sky Sports' extensive coverage of the Masters, starting on April 3.