Rory McIlroy backs loss of Open for men-only Muirfield
Rory McIlroy joined the chorus of approval for the Royal & Ancient decision to remove Muirfield from the Open Championship rota - because it refuses to admit women as members.
The Northern Ireland golf superstar won the Open in 2014 at Hoylake, bringing his total of Majors to four, and feels the R&A move is Muirfield's loss.
Muirfield members - known officially as The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers - fell just short of the required two-thirds (64%) majority in a vote on admitting women.
Top golfers, including Open winners Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, McIlroy and Scotland's Lawrie, were adamant that men-only clubs must change if they are to continue to attract the best European Tour events.
McIlroy and Harrington also urged Portmarnock Golf Club to open its membership to women, a decision that could enable the return of the Irish Open to the Co Dublin links for the first time since 2003.
Tongue only slightly in cheek, world number three McIlroy said of Muirfield: "As an Open champion, I don't feel like it makes any difference.
"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.
The Ulsterman is aware of the need to promote golf at all levels around the globe. The game needs to evolve to attract younger players, and equality of membership opportunity is a basic requirement, in McIlroy's opinion.
"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."
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.