World number three McIlroy, the 2014 Open champion, joined a host of his fellow professionals in slamming Muirfield’s members for failing to change their club’s constitution and applauded the R&A’s reaction in telling the Lothian club that it’s revered links would no longer host the world’s oldest major unless they reconsidered.
“As an Open champion I don’t feel like it makes any difference, I probably had my worse professional week of my career at Muirfield, so I don’t feel that bad not going back, to be honest.
“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 the R&A’s or our loss. If that’s what they want to do it’s a free world but they must have known that it was going to cause controversy.”
McIlroy agreed that Muirfield’s vote, which narrowly failed to get the required two-thirds majority to changes its rules, with 64% in favour and 36% against “wasn’t a great day” for golf’s image.
“We’ve such a strong ladies’ tour, we’ve got the Olympics coming up which is all about including everyone and the girls are going to get so much exposure from being in the Olympics with the men.
“It’s 2016, times move on. We are trying to break out of this stuffy, old; we are trying to become more with the times and trying to do things to make golf faster, make golf cooler, make more people included. Today wasn’t a great day to do that.”
McIlroy also addressed a similarly male-only membership policy in Ireland at Portmarnock. “I had a good chat with Gavin Caldwell (a former Portmarnock GC trustee and the 2015-16 R&A club captain) about this, and it’s the same thing. I’d love Portmarnock to obviously change their rules and to get the Irish Open there one year would be fantastic. But it’s never going to go if they don’t change the rules.”
Three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington also backed the decision to remove Muirfield from the Open rota.
“The R&A have done the right thing,” Harrington said.
“They have a responsibility to society not to condone it.”