Rory McIlroy: Muirfield mess leaves sour taste

Rory McIlroy has indicated he can’t easily forgive Muirfield members despite their belated vote to admit women members for the first time in the 273-year history of the course this week.

The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers voted 80% in favour of the rule change on Tuesday, having initially rejected the change with a majority ‘no’ vote in May 2016.

The vote means Muirfield will now be restored to the rota to stage the Open Championship — but McIlroy, speaking prior to today’s opening day’s play of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Bay Hills, said the issue was not over.

McIlroy said last night: “In this day and age where you’ve got women who are the leaders of certain industries and heads of state, not being able to join a golf course, I think it’s obscene and ridiculous.

“They (Muirfield) sort of saw sense, but I still think (that) it got to this stage is horrendous.

“We’ll go back and play the Open because they’ve let women members in, but every time I go to Muirfield now I won’t have a great taste in my mouth.”

McIlroy strongly supported governing body the R&A last year when it stated that Muirfield would be removed from the list of Open venues until it had a change of heart.

Meanwhile, Henrik Stenson hopes to make amends for one of the toughest losses of his career in a week when golf will mark the loss of one of its most influential figures.

Stenson held the outright lead with four holes to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2015, but three-putted the 15th for a bogey and did the same for par on the 16th after finding the green in two.

American Matt Every took full advantage with a birdie on the 18th to become the third player to stage a successful title defence in a tourney started by Palmer in 1979.

This year’s event is the first since Palmer died in September at the age of 87 and numerous tributes are being made to the seven-time major winner at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

Although world number one Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Adam Scott are not competing, four of the world’s top five and 14 of the top 25 help make up a strong field, which includes defending champion Jason Day and Ireland’s Rory McIlroy. Graeme McDowell is also competing.

A 14-foot bronze statue of Palmer was unveiled at the course on Saturday, while Masters champion Danny Willett is among the players who will have the tournament’s “umbrella” logo on his bag for the week.

And Orlando resident Stenson, who followed in Palmer’s footsteps by winning the Open Championship at Royal Troon last year, would love to mark the occasion by lifting the trophy on Sunday.

“It’s nice to be back home, get a week with family and get the extra local support,” said the world number five, who has finished in the top 15 in each of his last five starts at Bay Hill.

“There’s no question it was one of the tougher losses that I had in 2015 when I didn’t manage to win here, despite having a great opportunity. That’s the way it goes sometimes, but I hope I can make up for it and I win this tournament in the near future.”

Asked if he had a favourite memory of Palmer, Stensonsaid: “I think just looking back at all the things he did, not just on the golf course, but the things he did outside and for charity.

“Two of my three kids were born at the Winnie Palmer Hospital here in Orlando.”

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