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The Open at Royal Troon Live updates: Time to be true to myself vows Rory McIlroy

By Robert Jones

Published 15/07/2016

Driving ahead: Rory McIlroy en route to a two-under-par opening round at The Open
Driving ahead: Rory McIlroy en route to a two-under-par opening round at The Open

Rory McIlroy had just played an eventful and promising first round at The Open Championship.

But the Ulsterman's two-under-par 69 at Royal Troon was not the main talking point when he spoke to the media after his 18 holes yesterday.

Top of the agenda - or podium given the context - was the forthcoming Olympic Games, McIlroy's absence from Rio and his controversial comments on Tuesday that sparked debate, criticism and column inches all around the world.

McIlroy withdrew from the Games in June citing concerns over the Zika virus, but subsequently made it clear where Rio ranks in his priorities earlier this week in the build-up to The Open by saying he would not even watch the golf on TV, preferring "the stuff that matters" like "track and field, swimming and diving".

The comments were like a dagger to the heart of those who had campaigned for the sport to return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

They didn't go down well with some of the players bound for Rio either.

For McIlroy, the Olympics have presented issues for him ever since it was declared that golf would be played in Rio. He agonised over whether he would represent Ireland or Team GB, finally electing for the former.

Now he won't be going to the 2016 Games at all and surely there must be question marks over whether he will want to play at the Olympics in the future given his views on how important his sport is in the great scheme of things at the greatest show on earth.

"Look, it's my opinion. I think my opinion's shared by a few people, but some people may think it's wrong and that's fine," the World No.4 and four-time Major winner said when the subject was inevitably brought up yesterday after he posted a satisfactory score.

"I've spent seven years trying to please everyone and I figured out that I can't really do that, so I may as well be true to myself."

McIlroy had also said that he did not get into golf to "grow the game", which was one of the motivations of golf's governing bodies in bidding for the sport to go ahead at the Olympics.

Asked if he was happy with his comments during his pre-tournament press conference, the 27-year-old added: "I think I would have elaborated a little bit on the grow the game comment.

"Obviously I feel like I do my bit to grow the game. It's not as if I'm uninterested.

"I don't want to force golf on anyone, but I feel like golf is a great vehicle to instil values in kids.

"I'm an ambassador for the PGA Junior League, I do some stuff for the First Tee in the States and I feel like I've used my success in golf in a very positive way in the community."

McIlroy, who donated his prize money of £515,000 for winning the Irish Open in May to his own foundation, which hosts the event, added: "The next generation can play golf if they want or they don't. It won't make me any less happy.

"But if I can somehow make a positive change in the world by what I do on the golf course, whether that means raise money for charity or give kids more of a chance in life growing up. I've been very fortunate to do what I've done in golf and I feel like I've used that success in a positive way.

"I have no regrets about where I stand on certain things, but I wish I maybe would have just elaborated a little bit more on what I said."

McIlroy added that the controversy surrounding his comments had not affected him when he walked on to the first tee.

He said: "I was completely focused and concentrated out on the course and what I am trying to do."

That is, of course, to win his fifth Major.

He had to save par from sand on the first two holes but took advantage of the fourth and sixth, both downwind par fives, before holing from 12 feet for another birdie on the seventh.

McIlroy had taken "eight or nine" at the famous Postage Stamp in practice after struggling to get out of a greenside bunker, but had no such problems when it mattered thanks to a superb tee-shot to just two feet from the hole.

At four under at the turn, McIlroy was joint leader but dropped back after a frustrating double bogey at the 13th.

Another bogey followed at the next before he hit a birdie on 15, with pars on the remaining holes to finish on two under, six shots behind first round leader Phil Mickelson, but well in contention.

Countryman and Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke was pretty content at level par after his first 18 holes but Graeme McDowell was disappointed with his four-over-par round.

The former US Open champion only had one birdie, at the first, and is in danger of missing the cut.

Belfast Telegraph

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