Friday 30 September 2016

Rory McIlroy backs Open ban on Muirfield after latest men-only vote

Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy, pictured, and Padraig Harrington also called on Portmarnock Golf Club to open their membership to women, a decision which could enable the return of the Irish Open to the North County Dublin links for the first time since 2003 (PA)
Rory McIlroy, pictured, and Padraig Harrington also called on Portmarnock Golf Club to open their membership to women, a decision which could enable the return of the Irish Open to the North County Dublin links for the first time since 2003 (PA)

Rory McIlroy joined the chorus of approval for the Royal & Ancient decision to remove Muirfield from the Open Championship rota because the members refuse to admit women as members.

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The world No 3 won the British Open in 2014 at Hoylake, bringing his total of Majors to four, and he feels that the R&A decision is Muirfield's loss.

Muirfield members - known officially as The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers - fell just short of the required two-thirds (64pc in favour) majority in a vote on a proposal to admit women.

Top golfers, including Open Championship winners Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, McIlroy and Scotland's Paul Lawrie - were adamant that the men-only clubs need to change if they are to continue to attract the best European Tour events.

McIlroy and Harrington also called on Portmarnock Golf Club to open their membership to women, a decision which could enable the return of the Irish Open to the North County Dublin links for the first time since 2003.

Tongue only slightly in cheek, McIlroy said about Muirfield: "As an Open champion, I don't feel like it makes any difference.

19 May 2016; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland after his birdie putt on the sixth green during day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at The K Club in Straffan, Co. Kildare. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
19 May 2016; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland after his birdie putt on the sixth green during day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at The K Club in Straffan, Co. Kildare. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

"I probably had the worst professional week of my career at Muirfield, so I don't feel that bad not going back, to be honest.

"My memories of Muirfield aren't very good. Bigger picture, it's a great golf course, but there's so many other great golf courses that we play on the Open rota that we're not going to miss one.

"I think it's more their loss than it is our loss, or the R&A's loss.

"If that's what they want to do, it's a free world and they can do that, but they must have known it was going to cause this sort of controversy."

McIlroy's backing of the Irish Open through his Foundation was central to Dubai Duty Free coming on board as tournament sponsors last year.

Despite his continuing focus on his own career, the Ulsterman is aware of the need to promote golf at all levels around the globe.

The game's image needs to evolve to attract younger players, and equality of membership opportunity is a basic requirement in McIlroy's opinion.

"I think everyone should have the opportunity to join a club if they want to," he said.

"We're trying to become more with the times, and we're trying to do stuff to make golf cooler, and get more people included.

"This wasn't a great day for that."

On the Portmarnock issue, McIlroy had no hesitation in calling for a new approach by the club.

" It's the same thing. I'd love Portmarnock to change their rules," he said.

"To get the Irish Open there one day would be fantastic, but it's never going to go there if they don't change the rules.

"They're never going to get any tournament really, and maybe they don't want to, I don't know. It is what it is."

Harrington, an honorary member of Portmarnock, was equally forthright.

"I am an honorary member of Portmarnock, I don't have a vote, but put it like this: if I had a vote, I would be voting for lady members, absolutely," he said.

"I don't see any issue with it nowadays, none whatsoever. If you want to host a big event, you've got to fit in with modern society.

"In this day and age, who would want to be in a golf club with only men? I like what the R&A are doing."

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