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If Rory McIlroy wins Masters no-one will be talking about his round with Trump: McGinley

By Liam Kelly

Paul McGinley's fervent wish is that Rory McIlroy can bury the 'golf with Trump' controversy as soon as possible and get on with the challenge of making history at The Masters next month.

McGinley, the 2014 Ryder Cup captain and manager of Ireland's Olympic team in Rio last year, feels that McIlroy has suffered unwarranted criticism for his recent social round with the US President, and wonders how other leading figures in the game have escaped the same levels of negativity.

"The thing that surprises me is, you know, Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player in the game, very strongly came out in Trump's corner in terms of voting for him, made some strong political statements in his (Trump's) favour, and there's no word about that. Tiger Woods has played with him, no noise around that," he said.

"Ernie Els came out strongly in favour of Trump as well, and no noise about that.

"He (McIlroy) was in a no-win situation, and that's the problem.

"When you get offered by the President of the United States to go and play a game of golf, it's very hard to say no. That's what Padraig (Harrington) said, and I agree fully.

"How do you turn down the office of the Presidency of the United States?

"If he hadn't played, he would have been taking a very strong political position which would have created a lot of furore in the other direction,"said McGinley.

Ideally, the Dubliner would prefer to say nothing on the issue, but he did not duck the questions.

McGinley (below) is far more exercised by McIlroy's prospects of joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as winners of the four majors, the 'career Grand Slam'.

"Let him get down to his golf and hopefully people will move away from the noise and the talk around Donald Trump and him playing golf.

"We're on the threshold of history here. An Irishman can join only five people in the history of the game who won the Grand Slam, and he only gets one opportunity a year because the Masters is the one that he's missing," said McGinley.

McIlroy is set to play his first event since January 15, the day he lost a play-off in the BMW SA Championship to Graeme Storm.

The four time major champion played through the pain barrier with a rib injury that week.

It subsequently kept him off the Tour until today, when he tees it up alongside world number one Dustin Johnson and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama at the WGC-Mexico Championship at 5.36pm.

The tournament venue is Club de Golf Chapultepec, situated over 7,000 feet above sea level.

McIlroy's performance and his body's reaction to four rounds of tournament golf will come under intense scrutiny, but he remains optimistic.

"Good to go. I'm still strapping it up and still being a little bit, not protective, but careful," he said.

"I'm making sure I'm really warmed up before going out to play, a little bit of kinesio tape there just to help support it.

"I've been working through the bag the last seven to 10 days and it feels really good," said McIlroy.

The European Tour announced yesterday that Spain's John Rahm and Kevin Na (USA) are taking affiliate membership for 2017, which means they can collect Rolex Series points starting in Mexico. A bonus for Europe is that Rahm can gain Ryder Cup points this year.

Meanwhile, Ulsterman Darren Clarke and Paul Dunne compete in the Tshwane Open in Pretoria.

Paul McGinley and legendary coach Butch Harmon will be part of Sky Sports' extensive coverage of the Masters, from April 3 right through to the last putt on April 9.

Belfast Telegraph

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